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The Five Senses Review

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The lives of a gay cleaner with an acute sense of smell (Daniel MacIvor), a music-loving doctor who is going deaf (Volter), a widowed masseuse (Rose), a cake maker who can't bake (Mary-Louise Parker) and a bespectacled teen (Nadia Litz) who can only watch from the sidelines of life, are explored over three days, during which the neighbourhood is galvanised over a little girl's disappearance.

★★★★★

Canada has long been recognised as a fertile breeding ground for independent cinema and, richly textured and beautifully crafted, The Five Senses is another example of that quirky sensibility found north of the American border.

In his debut, Eclipse, Podeswa took a look at sexual obsessions in ten people during the days before a solar eclipse. This time around, his effort takes an abstract and prismatic view of the five senses over an equally emotional time. A gay cleaner with an acute sense of smell (Daniel MacIvor), a music-loving doctor who is going deaf (Volter), a widowed masseuse (Rose), a cake maker who can't bake (Mary-Louise Parker) and a bespectacled teen (Nadia Litz) who can only watch from the sidelines of life: these characters' lives are explored over three days, during which the neighbourhood is galvanised over a little girl's disappearance.

It's an ambitious task to take quite so many different elements, effectively delineate each one and keep the thing on course as a whole and, while Podeswa's skilful plotting of each of these stories is successful enough, there's something missing. The end result is a series of short, interwoven pieces, lacking in narrative drive. Furthermore, with a limited amount of screen time each, this set of dislocated characters is largely uninvolving. With its perfectly pitched acting, bizarre twists and sharply observed details, The Five Senses has enough elements to keep your interest - just. Podeswa is no doubt a talent to watch, but he has some way to go before he engages with audiences on the same level as fellow compatriots Atom Egoyan or David Cronenberg.

With its perfectly pitched acting, bizarre twists and sharply observed details, The Five Senses has enough elements to keep your interest - just.