Movie Review: ‘5 Flights Up’ Shows The Benefits Of A Long Term Romance

5 flights

Greetings again from the darkness. Based on the Jill Ciment novel “Heroic Measures”, the story centers on a couple that has been married for 40 years, and who are considering selling off the only home they have known together – a Brooklyn walk-up filled with sunlight, memories and a breathtaking view. In fact, it has everything they need, except an elevator.

Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman play Ruth and Alex, a school teacher and artist, respectively. They are obviously very much still in love, and given what we witness in flashbacks, Ruth remains the more adventurous of the two, while Alex is very satisfied with their life, their neighborhood, and their apartment. Ruth’s niece Lily (Cynthia Nixon) is the pushy, self-centered Realtor who is helping them sell their place … even though Ruth and Alex have no definitive plan or vision of where they might relocate to.

Other than the whirlwind of emotions and real estate activity, not a lot really happens for our main couple. In fact, it’s the wonderful flashbacks that provide insight into this couple’s journey, and the younger versions are well played by Claire van der Boom and Korey Jackson.

The real estate blitz – both buying and selling – is captured thanks to the frantic actions of Lily and the always emotional open house and bidding war that ensues. Nerves are especially frayed when one of the parties is still not convinced there is a need to move, and for once, this couple just doesn’t seem to be communicating about the harsh realities of their situation.

Two sub-plots are handled with varying degrees of success. Ten years ago, Alex gave Ruth the “gift” of a puppy, and now the dog is having some physical challenges probably related to the 5 flights of stairs. The ongoing medical process could have been a more effective analogy facing the couple, but the two pieces aren’t quite tied together. Much less effective is the ongoing bomb scare on a local bridge that “could affect real estate” values. The post 9/11 scenario seems oddly out of place, and provides yet another missed opportunity for some real insight into what the couple has been through in their four decades together.

Keaton and Freeman make for a very sweet couple, and their moments together are the best part of the film … excepting the stunning camera work over the city as the closing credits roll. Director Richard Loncraine (Firewall) delivers a movie that should play well for gray cinema fans who aren’t looking for deep social meaning, and simply enjoy a bit of nostalgia and a long-term relationship that’s working – and lacking unnecessary drama.

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