5X2 — ** 1/2 — Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stephane Freiss; in French, with English subtitles; rated R (profanity, sex, vulgarity, nudity, brief drugs).

The ideas about casual sex and infidelity expressed in "5x2" are very European. However, what the film says about how they can affect a committed relationship isn't.

In some ways this French drama is very traditional, at least regarding what it has to say about marriage and parenthood. And it's certainly more thoughtful, more honest, than most European films on the subject, which tend to be sex farces.

The gimmicky, back-to-front storytelling — the scenes are shown in reverse chronological order — doesn't always make it easy to watch (nor does some of the harsher, more challenging material). But it definitely has its rewards.

As for the title, it refers to five stages in the relationship between Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stephane Freiss). This story begins at the end, with the divorce settlement and messy parting between the two.

Throughout their marriage, both of them had problems remaining faithful. And their acrimony and suspicions were only worsened by the disappearing act Gilles pulled when Marion gave birth to their son.

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Still, having a child kept them together. And Gilles' gay brother, Christophe (Antoine Chappey), seems envious about that aspect of their relationship. On the other hand, Marion's parents (Francoise Fabian and Michael Lonsdale) stayed together for her and can't stand each other now.

At times, the plotting is a bit soap opera-ish. Filmmaker Francois Ozon and screenwriting collaborator Emmanuele Bernheim deliberately left out a lot of information to force viewers to draw their own conclusions. Instead, it feels incomplete.

Bruni-Tedeschi and Freiss give solid performances, though, and their physical transformations over time (a slight weight gain for her, facial hair for him) are convincing. And they help make two fairly unlikable characters watchable.

"5x2" is rated R for frequent use of strong sexual profanity, simulated sex and other sexual contact (including what could arguably be called a sexual assault), crude sexual talk and use of sexual slang terms, full female and partial male nudity, and brief drug content (a few references). Running time: 90 minutes.

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