5 Flights Up
3.5/5   aka: Ruth & Alex
dir Richard Loncraine
scr Charlie Peters
prd Lori McCreary, Curtis Burch, Tracy Mercer, Charlie Peters, Morgan Freeman, Sam Hoffman
with Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton, Cynthia Nixon, Carrie Preston, Claire van der Boom, Korey Jackson, Sterling Jerins, Josh Pais, Liza J Bennett, Gary Wilmes, Maddie Corman, Miriam Shor
release US 8.May.15, UK 24.Jul.15
14/US 1h32
5 Flights Up
It's not easy to improve on the view: Keaton and Freeman

nixon preston pais
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Ruth & Alex Both sweet and slight, this drama gently explores the advance of time in both relationships and communities. It feels warm and realistic, but has little edge to it, relying more on personal details than plot tension. So there's plenty of lovely insight, even if the film feels rather sentimental.

After living in their sunny Brooklyn apartment for four decades, optimist Ruth and pragmatic Alex (Keaton and Freeman) realise that their advancing age means they should probably stop climbing five flights of stairs every day. So they start looking at buildings with lifts. The problem is that nowhere is nearly as nice. Ruth's niece Lilly (Nixon) is pushing them to make a deal, organising a bustling open house for potential buyers. As they field bids and make offers, they're also worrying about expensive medical treatment required for their beloved dog Dorothy.

Along the way, bigger issues emerge in flashbacks to their arrival in the neighbourhood as a mixed-race couple (van der Bloom and Jackson) at a time when people were openly bigoted. Less overtly, the film touches on their decision not to have children and their struggle to find a place that feels as much like home as their current flat. All of this is livened up by an army of colourful people swirling in and out of Ruth and Alex's story.

Scenes are packed with lively characters, including Nixon's frazzled estate agent and her counterpart (Preston), who represents an angry urban couple (Bennett and Wilmes). There's also a flurry of hilarious people moving from one open house to another. Strongly well-acted, none of these characters are very deeply developed, but they all add to Keaton's and Freeman's beautifully textured performances. Even the dog is excellent.

Intriguingly, the audience never really cares what Ruth and Alex decide, because their sparky chemistry is so engaging. So the side issues are merely vivid background wallpaper, exploring how communities change for better or worse, the stress of planning for the future and newsreaders' panic over a possible terror attack. The point is that society expects us to panic about everything, but life is for living, and it isn't actually that difficult to balance humanity and economy. As Alex observes, "Why are we getting all worked up over nothing? Haven't we built a good life?"

cert 12 themes, language 11.Jul.15

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