Leon Prudovsky’s bitter-sweet and appealing romantic drama, Five Hours From Paris, largely unfolds in a drab suburb of Tel Aviv, its title notwithstanding. The protagonists are Yigal (Dror Keren), a divorced and lonely Israeli-born taxi driver, and Lina (Elena Yaralova), a married Russian immigrant and music teacher.
The movie is currently being presented online by the Toronto Jewish Film Foundation.
Yigal and Lina cross paths by accident: Yigal’s son is one of her pupils. But once they meet, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. Time is against them, though. Lina and her husband, Grisha, are planning to emigrate.
As the film gets under way, Grisha (Vladimir Freedman), a doctor, is still in Canada taking qualifying medical exams. He will soon return to Israel, but in the meantime, the bond between Yigal and Lina grows stronger by the day.
Yigal, in a session with his therapist, admits he is sexually attracted to Lina. He encourages Yigal to pursue Lina. Emboldened by the advice, Yigal makes it his business to court her.
Apart from sharing an interest in the schmaltzy love songs of French singer Joe Dassin, they both feel that something emotionally important is missing in their lives. Much to her regret, Lina is childless, all because Grisha does not want children. As for Yigal, he cannot visit Paris, his dream destination, because he fears flying.
Sensing they may be on the same wave length, Lina gives Yigal a CD recording of one of her piano compositions. It would appear that Lina relinquished her ambition to be a professional musician and settled for being a music teacher.
In the following scene, Lina helps Yigal overcome his fear of flying, after which they share a bottle of champagne. She invites him to a Russian restaurant and lets him borrow her husband’s pants and shirt for the occasion. En route to her apartment, she nuzzles against his shoulder, and they kiss for the first time.
As might be expected from this kind of a situation, Grisha suddenly appears, and he reiterates his determination to leave Israel. Lina, who seems conflicted by his decision, opens a newly-arrived letter from the Canadian government informing them they have permission to settle in Canada, but she temporarily withholds it from Grisha.
Despite Grisha’s presence, Yigal and Lina see each other yet again. By this point, Grisha is aware that Lina is having an affair, but he laughs it off, as if their romantic triangle is bereft of any real meaning. Nonetheless, he buys two airplane tickets for their impending flight to Canada.
Yigal, in a desperate attempt to derail Grisha’s emigration plan, professes his love for Lina, who abandons all self-restraint after his declaration. By this juncture, Grisha is seriously concerned by and angry at Lina’s betrayal.
With fine, understated performances from the two leads, Five Hours From Paris tugs at your heartstrings without being saccharine. Prudovsky’s main characters, Yigal and Lina, are ordinary, everyday people who have reached a fork in their lives and must decide what to do next.
This oft-repeated theme permeates the film and is likely to appeal to many viewers.