So we begin with the end: the marriage of Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stéphane Freiss) is over. Their lawyer clinically reads out the terms of their separation. The newly divorceds then retire to a hotel where they indulge in loveless sex (which becomes rape when Marion changes her mind). Perversely, Stéphane suggests that they try to work things out; Marion sensibly disagrees, leaves the room and walks into the hotel lift. It’s the last moment of Ozon’s story – and we’re only 20 minutes in.
Ozon’s narrative Tardis then transports us through four well-framed scenarios in the history of the couple’s relationship: a dinner party with Gille’s gay brother and partner while their son sleeps; the birth of their child; their wedding; and the beginning of their affair in Italy, where Gilles is on holiday with his previous girlfriend.
It’s an interesting exercise in signposting. Too often, we watch movies and groan at the obvious twists and turns towards a predictable end. But there’s something Brechtian about Ozon’s approach here. The end is clear; the question is how we got there, what we can deduce from the little behaviour we witness. The experience is something like a criminal investigation, a search for clues to Gilles and Marion’s impending break-up. It makes for engaging viewing – but still leaves you with a feeling that all love is doomed. Stimulating, but hardly comforting.