Common Sense

Jeremy Podeswa's new film seeks sensation in the humdrum.

The Five Senses
Honestly now; have you of late found yourself enthralled by pleasing stimuli? Please, no nauseating responses like "After I get rolfed, my heart is more open to love." Instead, think of the good, serendipitous stuff, the random intoxicants that bombard your subcutaneous organs.

Just to warn you, your ganglia are unlikely to pulse with lascivious synapses at The Five Senses either. Despite its promising title, this new film from Canadian director Jeremy Podeswa (Eclipse) isn't much of a candidate for the midnight circuit, as it's less about sensual excitement than about people simply coping with boring routines. True, their senses ultimately lift them out of their ruts, but the catalysts are mostly contrived.

Of course, that also seems to be the point Podeswa seeks to make: That we humans are capable of experiencing much more of our immediate environments, relishing even the simple stuff and being the more whole for our efforts. Set over three tense days in Toronto, the movie follows the interweaving paths of several distraught characters, each of whom has a lesson to learn from their senses. Rona (Mary-Louise Parker) is a baker, but her beautifully crafted cakes are purely cosmetic creations, not very much fun to eat, representing (bingo!) her life. Against the advice of her effeminate, lovelorn friend Robert (Daniel MacIvor), she invites a fling from Italy to live with her. The exotic Roberto (Marco Leonardi) is everything Rona's confections are not, and he quickly sets about teaching her the meaning of taste.

Inhabiting the same building as Rona are Richard (Philippe Volter), an eye doctor who has just discovered that he is going deaf, and Ruth (Gabrielle Rose), a massage therapist who couldn't be more out of touch with her teenage daughter, Rachel (Nadia Litz). While Richard attempts to catalogue memories of sounds in his mind, Rachel takes two-year-old Amy Lee (Elize Frances Stolk), daughter of her mother's client, Anna (Molly Parker), on a trip to the park. Setting the wheels of conflict and universal interconnectedness in motion, the adolescent takes her eyes off her charge to scrutinize a couple making love in the foliage. The child disappears, the mothers lose their balance, and a complex drama of self-discovery unfolds.

While the stimuli of The Five Senses may be a bit rote and the pacing offers yards of slack, the performances are uniformly energetic, and Podeswa has a gift for orchestrating moving moments in deceptively simple circumstances. The Five Senses probably won't satisfy your own five senses, but it may at least remind you to go outside, taste a friend, sniff the ice-cream truck, and listen to a flower.

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