The Five Senses

on July 14, 2000 by Lael Loewenstein
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   Canadian filmmaker Jeremy Podeswa's "The Five Senses" takes what could have been a contrived, artificial construct and turns it into a surprisingly intricate, effective movie. Working with five different but interconnected storylines, each representing one of the five senses, Podeswa creates a film that works on many levels and says much about the difficulty humans have in forging meaningful relationships. The stories unfold over a three-day period in which a small child has gone missing, fueling a media frenzy and general public unease. Each of the characters is somehow linked to the missing girl. Her mother Anna (Molly Parker) is a client of massage therapist Ruth (Gabrielle Rose), who represents touch. Ruth's daughter Rachel (Nadia Litz) was supposed to be watching the girl in the park but instead becomes drawn into a voyeuristic game with local boy Rupert (Brendan Fletcher). Rachel and Rupert, in this construct, represent sight. Meanwhile, Ruth's neighbor Rona (Mary-Louise Parker) is a cake baker and decorator with an impaired sense of taste, who finds herself the reluctant host of Roberto (Marco Leonardi), an impassioned Italian chef she met on holiday in Europe. Ruth's best friend is Robert (Daniel MacIvor), a wry bisexual housecleaner with an acute sense of smell who embarks on a quirky aromatic chronology of his former lovers; he resolves to meet and smell each of them to see if anyone is still in love with him. And finally, Ruth and Rona share a building with Richard (Philippe Volter), an eye doctor in the early stages of deafness who decides to build a "library" of favorite sounds in his head. Only with the affection of a woman from his past (Pascale Bussières) can Richard overcome his despair.
   Though the narrative threads are many, "The Five Senses" never feels unwieldy, largely because Podeswa treats his material with a touch that is assured, affectionate, witty and warm. He never belabors the sensory allusions but rather uses them as a gently unifying context, a backdrop against which each poignant, funny and well-acted story unfolds. Starring Mary-Louise Parker, Daniel MacIvor, and Marco Leonardi. Written and directed by Jeremy Podeswa. Produced by Camelia Frieberg and Jeremy Podeswa. Fine Line. Drama. Rated R for sexuality and language. Running time: 105 min
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