After not even ten years of marriage, Marion (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Friess) are now divorcing. They sit in the judge's office as he reads out the terms of the arrangement, listening as he tells them that Marion will have custody of their son and Gilles will see him on the first and third weeks of every month. And so it goes on, but by the time the divorce has been settled, the couple have one last thing to do. They go to a hotel room nearby and get into bed with each other, planning to make love one last time, but Marion grows steadily more relcutant. Gilles, however, won't take no for an answer...
Taking the lead from Memento and Irreversible, writer and director François Ozon's 5x2 ran backwards, although considerably less violently than those other films. This was a love story, a falling out of love story really, with five sequences starting with the divorce and tracking the seeds of the break up back to the point where the relationship began on holiday at an Italian beach resort. In fact, the film resembles a portmanteau work, with five short stories linked with a common theme, the thread of Marion and Gilles, prompting you to examine whether they were ever right for each other or whether it was doomed from the moment they got to know one another.
If you're the sort of person who likes to track events to their source, then this is the film for you. The first instalment basically has Gilles forcing himself on Marion in that hotel room, but does he want the relationship to continue or is he desperate to ensure she won't forget about him, for better or worse? Whatever, after that she seems happy to see the back of him, even if he does make it look as if he's jumped out of the window (deliberately?). As you can see, there are still questions left by the end of this film, but as we only drop in on the couple at various parts of their lives for brief instances, that's understandable.
The second part begins a recurring trick as we see a relationship other than Marion and Gilles' that apparently comments on their bond, or lack of it. It's simple enough, with Gilles' brother invited over for a dinner with his boyfriend, but the conversation takes an uncomfortable turn when the boyfriend freely admits that he cheats on Gilles' brother yet feels this is natural behaviour, and the brother doesn't mind because the boyfriend always comes back to him afterwards. This leads Gilles to confess to them about the time he and Marion went to a party that transformed into an orgy; Marion encouraged Gilles to take part, while she merely watched from the sidelines.
Is this true? We can believe Gilles would carry out such acts, but Marion doesn't seem the type. However, Tedeschi (who was forty when she made this, but looked ten years younger if not more) pulls off the difficult task of rendering the ever-changing personality of Marion a convincing portrait of a woman who, as it transpires, used to be a sweet natured innocent, but ended up a more complex and jaded individual. On the day that Marion gave birth to their son, Gilles refused to attend the hospital, and even then only appeared for a short time before leaving to sit in his car and brood. It's simple to view this as an indication that he wasn't happy in the marriage, but then why does he want her back by the end? Nobody said people were easy to read, and the casually enigmatic 5x2 is a wistful experience, not for what might have been, but for what was and could have been. Music by Philippe Rombi.