By Merle Bertrand | August 17, 2000

It’s a good thing this film is called “The FIVE Senses,” because the sixth sense, ESP, really let me down this time. When I learned that Jeremy Podeswa’s film was an intense drama about a missing child, I immediately leapt to the conclusion — predicted, if you will — that this was going to resemble some sort of stereotypical heavy-handed network Movie of the Week. Fortunately, this was an inaccurate prediction. There is, indeed, a missing child at the center of this film; a cute three-year old who wanders away from her inattentive baby-sitter at the park.
Rather than dwell only on this single plot element, however, Podeswa treats the little girl’s disappearance as the hub of a wheel, with the child’s neighbors and mother serving as spokes. Each of these neighbors relates a subplot of their own; intertwining crises that involve a particular human sense. It starts with Ruth (Gabrielle Rose), a lonely massage therapist and widow whose troubled kiss-of-death daughter Rachel (Nadia Litz) was the missing girl’s baby-sitter. Then there’s Ruth’s neighbor Dr. Jacob (Philippe Volter), a lonely optometrist who, knowing he’s going deaf, resolves to hear as many sounds as possible in an effort to create a library in his mind. Rona (the always fetching Mary-Louise Parker), who spotted the child in the elevator right before she disappeared, is an excellent professional cake decorator…which partially compensates for the fact that her cakes taste awful. With luck, her excitable Italian boyfriend, as terrible at English as he is awesome in the kitchen and bedroom, will correct this shortcoming. Finally, Rona’s bisexual best friend Robert (Daniel MacIvor), believing he can smell true love, embarks on a quest to contact all his past lovers inthe hopes that he can sniff out a trace of previously overlooked ardor.
While it might seem as if the little girl’s disappearance would get lost amidst this five ring circus, what happens instead is a very real, yet still intense portrayal of a potential tragedy that perfectly mimics reality. Life goes on in the real world, especially for those only tangentially related to a crisis, and people find time to laugh even in times of horrible tragedy, if only at gallows humor. In “The Five Senses,” the concurrent subplots work to relieve the omnipresent gloom and doom that would otherwise turn this film into the previously mentioned TV movie tripe.
Filled with a fine ensemble cast, this well-balanced dramedy fires on all cylinders. I’ll try my sixth sense again and predict that audiences will enjoy this film.

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