In Podeswa's narratively club-footed but directorially assured movie, the
characters (all residents or workers in the same apartment building in
Toronto) are having some kind of sensual issue.
Robert (Daniel MacIvor), a house cleaner and Rona's confidante, is so
attuned to his sense of smell, he uses his nose to judge almost everything.
Things in Sensually Deprived Towers take a turn for the dramatic when
Rachel (the masseuse's sullen daughter) takes the child of her mother's
client out for a walk in the park. Distracted by a couple that has slipped
into the woods to have sex, she loses track of the little girl, who wanders
Suddenly, there's a big hue and cry, as Toronto police and news crews draw
public attention to the missing girl, and residents in the building react to
The search becomes a unifying link for the various subplots at play. While
news of the missing girl fills the airwaves, the characters come to grips
with their, you know, sense issues.
Ruth the masseuse, feeling guilty about the lost child, tries to connect
with the mother of the missing girl. She also tries to understand her
daughter's apparently blase reaction to the tragedy. Richard the eye doctor
tries to create a mental library of the sounds he'll be missing as his
hearing fades. His hired escort (Pascale Bussieres) begins to provide
emotional support for him; and a sexual relationship grows into something
Rona the bad cake-maker gets a visit from Roberto (Marco Leonardi), an
Italian fling who suddenly jets in determined to start a life as a chef. She
thinks he might be a con artist, using her to gain entry to the country. He
thinks she needs to retrain her palate.
And in the most interesting character-driven section of the movie, Robert
the house cleaner (Rona's best friend) decides to take stock of his former
lovers (male and female) and reassess them in case there was a great love he
didn't appreciate at the time. After all, he believes he can smell the true
aroma of love.
Clearly, Podeswa is a better director than writer. The story, which he
wrote, is diagrammatic and simple; it lays out its design too obviously. But
Podeswa, an artistic kissing-cousin of Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan (who
made "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Felicia's Journey"), has a gift for evoking
He also coaxes good performances from Parker and MacIvor. Parker, an
underrated actor, is tender and occasionally funny as the worried Rona,
wondering if this Italian lover is too good to be true. And MacIvor has an
incredibly simpatico appeal. In a non-intrusive way, he seems to be
speaking or benevolently reacting on Podeswa's behalf. This movie isn't going
to stand up and shake you by the lapels. Patient viewers who can deal with
Canadian movie rhythms are going to have to enjoy the passing moments with
this movie's characters to appreciate the film's smaller virtues.
THE FIVE SENSES (R, 105 minutes) Contains nudity, sexual situations and
emotionally distressing material.