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5×2 | Review

Five Steps Back

Ozon’s tackles relationship highs and woes.

First comes lust and love, then comes marriage, then comes the house with a baby carriage. Tired of feel-good films about the benefits of finding a soul mate? French filmmaker Francois Ozon serves the divorce papers early on in his five segment tale about the disintegration and the fruition of a relationship. Commencing with the end and ending with the beginning, 5 X 2 has the same narrative mechanics as the kitsch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but where these two love stories in reverse differ from one another is in the tone. Infusing a cold and clinical atmosphere, Ozon leads the viewer on an intimate journey between two fractured souls. Gilles (Stephane Freiss) and Marion (Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi) are featured in a collision course of hurt – the film’s unromantic break-up sex after the final court proceedings is empty, miserable and ugly. Working from the ashes up, the narrative avoids getting into the multitude of reasons why the break up is forthcoming; instead Ozon chooses to understand the raw emotions between his players and he fills each scene with an air of tension. The slow and sensual camera gets into their physical and mental spaces and the intimate nature of the film places the viewer in-between the affair. The film’s closing segment located on a beach with the blazing last rays of a sun emphasizes the culmination of a new romance – it shelves the emptiness of being in a hurtful relationship and touches upon the passionate first contact between two people. It’s a melancholic wave goodbye to this complicated matter called love. Fans of the 8 Women or Swimming Pool will find that the drama has more of an affinity with the vast supply of emotions witnessed in Sous le Sable. While many might be baffled by the character motivations such as Gilles’ narcissisms, 5 X 2 is better served as a chart of complicated behavior and human emotions instead of an insightful understanding of why people’s marriages fail.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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