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France 2004
Directed by
Francois Ozon
90 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Lee Young
3 stars

5 x 2

Synopsis: Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Freiss) are a French couple whose unhappy marriage is chronicled backwards through five episodes, starting with their divorce and ending at the beginning of their relationship at an Italian seaside resort.

Using a technique that has, of late, become an almost too common method of storytelling, François Ozon's latest feature is an attempt to explore the question "'why do relationships end?" by beginning with the end and ending with the beginning. Through the use of this technique 5 x 2 becomes an extended essay on the deterioration of a relationship. We investigate it like a psychologist would their patient ('let's go back a step, shall we?').

The film opens in the office of the judge officiating over their divorce. Marion and Gilles sit coldly next to each other as the judge reads over the terms of their divorce. After this meeting, the ex-couple go to a hotel room for one last fling. This encounter verges on sexual assault when Marion decides she is uncomfortable with the situation but Gilles presses on. Throughout the four following sequences we discover that Gilles has changed very little over the course of their relationship. He always seems to want what he can't have. His attraction to Marion in the first place is amplified by the fact that he already has a girlfriend.

The sequence before their first meeting is their wedding day. Up to this point we have seen Gilles pay very little attention to Marion's desires, so it comes as little surprise when he passes out on their wedding night rather than making love to his new wife. Marion must accept her share of the blame, though. After Gilles passes out on her, she heads downstairs and gets her wedding night sex from another source. It is often her quiet acceptance of her husband's actions that lead to a breakdown in communication between the two. He is always upfront about what he wants. At one point he gets involved in the action at a swingers' party and all Marion can do is sit back and watch.

Though Ozon's approach to this relationship is a clinical one, his sympathies tend more toward Marion. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is fantastic in this role. Her display of emotion is often understated, every stare full of meaning. On the other hand, the aggression in Freiss' portrayal of Gilles serves well to hide the little boy struggling to deal with a life of responsibility and adult needs.

The most beautiful thing about 5 x 2 is that Ozon has taken a tragic story and given it a happy (though bittersweet) ending by turning the order of events upside down. The film ends with the couple's first encounter by the sea, gorgeous sunset and all.




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