out of Five
Running time: 90
Intriguingly structured, impressively acted film that’s intelligent, moving and quietly devastating.
French director Francois Ozon continues his impressive run of eclectic
arthouse flicks (including Under the Sand, 8 Women and Swimming Pool) with 5 x 2, an intriguing look at a disintegrating marriage that qualifies for entry into the ‘Movies Told Backwards’ mini-genre, alongside the likes of Irreversible and Memento.
Five Major Events
5 x 2 takes a look at five major events in a married couple’s life (hence the title), in reverse order. We first meet Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Freiss) as they sit down to finalise their divorce, before heading to a hotel for a farewell shag that turns uncomfortably sour.
The film then takes us back through a family scene and a discussion about infidelity, the birth of their first child, their wedding and finally their first meeting, during a seaside holiday.
There’s no Memento-style trickery involved in the backwards structure of the film; instead, it invites the audience to examine the relationship and to try and pin-point why it broke down. Ozon offers several clues without passing judgement, although your sympathies definitely shift from one side to the other.
For example (and kindly skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to avoid any more plot details), Gilles deliberately doesn’t attend the birth of their child, even though he knows it’s a difficult birth and people are wondering where he is. However, it is later revealed that Marion was unfaithful on their wedding night and, finally, that Gilles was already with someone when he met Marion, so perhaps they were doomed from the start.
Excellent Acting All Round
The acting is excellent, particularly Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, who is strongly reminiscent of Gillian Anderson; she has a haunting, sad-eyed face that is hypnotically beautiful and yet strangely passive. Ozon, in turn, uses that quality to devastating effect, as the men in her life treat her appallingly; the various scenes of seduction in the film are extremely difficult to watch. Stéphane Freiss is equally good as Gilles, exhibiting a brooding, depressive intensity that is never really explained.
Ozon also includes a snap-shot of Marion’s parents (brilliantly acted by veteran supporting actors Michael Lonsdale and Francois Fabian), who we first see bickering intently, post-separation, at the birth, and then blissfully dancing together at the wedding. This acts as a mirror to the central relationship, as well as providing a genuine, if brief, moment of warmth and happiness in what is, admittedly, a pretty bleak story.
In short, 5 x 2 is an intriguingly structured, intelligent film that is both thought-provoking and moving, thanks to impressive direction and superb performances. Highly recommended.