Published Feb 01, 2000Jeremy Podeswa leads the audience into his film The Five Senses the same way he guides his characters through their various trials and crises: gently but deliberately. The film begins with chatting and small talk; Podeswa relies on his images to establish, or at least to hint at, the coming events. Richard (Phillipe Volter), an optometrist, squats by the vents near the baseboards in is office, listening to people in the neighbouring rooms. The only light comes in through the huge windows behind him. We later learn that he is losing his hearing; before his doctor can deliver the news, he asks, "Should I give away my season's tickets for the opera?" Volter delivers the line with great care, and we learn a great deal about Richard without seeing the look on his face.
Richard works in a large building with some of the film's other characters: Ruth (Gabrielle Rose), a massage therapist whose daughter Rachel (Nadia Litz) precipitates a crisis for one of Ruth's clients (Molly Parker); and Rona (Mary Louise Parker), a cake decorator with a new Italian boyfriend. Rona's best friend Robert (Daniel MacIvor), a house cleaner with a keen sense of smell. Podeswa makes sure that his conceit - the intertwined lives of these people - never burdens the development of his characters. The film ends with a series of discoveries: Ruth starts to understand Rachel, by whom she'd previously been almost revulsed. Podeswa won't flinch from the pain of these emotions. Rona's mother (played by Clare Coulter with unnerving understatement) tells her daughter to go home, and visit again the next day: "I'll still be dying tomorrow."