By Shawn Hoult
The Five Senses is an extraordinary movie about ordinary lives. Canadian director Jeremy Podeswa weaves a story that is both unsettling and heartwarming, as he tells the tale of a number of intertwining lives in a Canadian city.
At first glance this film bears a striking resemblance to Robert Altman’s Shortcuts, but it soon becomes obvious this is an entirely original film guilty of using the unoriginal idea of intertwining city lives.
One of the most ingenious things about this film is the way Podeswa uses the five senses to examine and explain his milieu of characters as they attempt to find both themselves and each other.
The highlight of the film is the tale of Robert, (Daniel MacIvor) a professional housekeeper with an amazing sense of smell, who tries to find love by smelling for it on all of his ex-lovers. MacIvor supplies both the comic relief with his wonderfully dry humour and portrays the tragic figure, as he desperately searches for an ideal that may not exist.
The Five Senses is basically a story of how everyone connects to each other and to the world by using their senses, as well as how the loss of or over-reliance on these senses can close people off from the world around them. For example, massage therapist (Gabrielle Rose) who forgets how to touch her daughter (Nadia Litz) and her daughter’s voyeuristic friend (Brendan Fletcher) who learns how to see himself.
The character of Richard (Philippe Volter) tells perhaps the most moving story of the film, as an optometrist who is going deaf and is trying to hear all of his favourite sounds before he loses his hearing. Richard’s story is every bit as sad as that of a person who is given a short while to live and must go through the morbid task of doing everything they always meant to do before they die. This film is unsettling in its realistic depiction of how people act and interact in their everyday lives.
Each story on some level deals with finding love, with some of the characters being successful and others not. The thing that makes this unsettling is the fact that in all of these cases (as in real life) the outcome could just as easily go either way. Podeswa masterfully shows us what is inside these characters, why they end up where they do and the internal conflicts that occur. The characters are brought to life both through the efforts of the talented ensemble cast and through the story telling abilities of Podeswa. The only unfortunate thing about this film is that due to its small release, it will not garner the audience that it deserves.
The Five Senses opens Jan. 28.