The premise is promising: the story of two lovers, told in five chapters, moving backwards in time from their divorce to the first chance meeting on an Italian vacation. It's "Memento" reimagined as a love story: we know the relationship won't work out, but how did it end up that way? Who cheated on whom, who wasn't there when the other one needed them most? The experiment could have been fascinating: will the story still feel like a sad one even though it ends with the happy beginning?
Unfortunately, Francois Ozon, celebrated hot-shot auteur of "Swimming Pool," "Under the Sand," and "8 Women," makes it exceedingly difficult to feel anything for his protagonists. Gilles, (played by Stephane Freiss) is what's technically known as a shit. In the opening chapter, right before "there's nothing left to say," he date-rapes his former wife. And Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), who looks like a victim for most of the film, has her own unsavory secrets. As the plot moves backwards from the divorce proceedings to a tense dinner party, the birth of the couple's only child, the wedding, and their initial meeting, Ozon doesn't allow Marion and Gilles a single moment of real happiness. It's easy to conclude that they'll be better off without each other.
As a much more radical and satisfying adventure in turning narrative structure upside down, I recommend an audacious movie by an independent American director that's currently playing in theaters. The film begins with a happy ending and works its way to a tragic conclusion which in turn is the beginning of a series of comedies. The title of this odd experimental film? "Revenge of the Sith."