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 with their first encounter at an Italian seaside resort.

1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Nov 2015 - 10:22 AM
Five stages in the romance between a woman and a man.

Francois Ozon is one 'foreign language filmmaker' welcomed by Australian audiences. His last two - Swimming Pool (2003), and much-loved 'murder mystery musical' 8 Women (2002) - were downright hits with finding very receptive theatrical distributors, audiences and critics a ike. His latest film, 5x2, takes us into more dramatic territory, and like another recent French drama, Gaspar Noe's 'controversial' Irreversible (2002), the story is told in reverse.

We meet couple Marion and Gilles inside a lawyer's office just as they are completing divorce proceedings. It has been a long time coming, as the camera tells us, lingering over the actors' faces playing the parts, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (Tickets) and Stephane Freiss (Crime Spree). In excrutiating detail we witness their pained expressions as the past decade of marriage flips through their minds. In four other similarly observed chapters we hop, skip and jump through the moments that might have shaped this final rift, and also the love they once had for each other.

5x2 is sure to appeal to Ozon fans as it displays his usual flair for intense, intimate scenes, honest, realistic dialogue and as-real performances from fantastic actors. By the end of the film 'the start as it were' we are probably no closer to knowing why these two really fell out with each other, other than they simply grew apart. (Or perhaps Gilles realised that he was a gay man trapped in a straight marriage as Ozon at times throughout implies). Ozon deliberately plays with ambiguity in his story, not always filling in the blanks in this narrative about personal lives.

Unlike fellow director Noe (who dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't' in Irreversible, his backwards-told story of love and devastation), Ozon leaves things far more open. It is up to us therefore to fill in the missing parts of the story, the reasons why this couple may have split and have such an awful, sadly violent sexual encounter at the end of their story but beginning of the film (another thing 5x2 also shares with Irreversible, although 5x2's rape is nowhere near as graphic). The lack of definitive answers offered by Ozon might annoy some, but I was happy enough to take this story on face value. To enjoy the performances and the maybe's associated with their troubled union. It is a film that one can either take on face value, watch on a superficial level as the story plays out, or in which to read a deeper subtext about 'the trouble with men and women'. While there are moments of joy and humor, it does have an over-reaching morbid tone about it however, as we know already that the outcome for this couple is not great. 5x2 may not be Irreversible, but it is an engaging drama with enough going for it.