Director: Roger Michell
Screenplay: Hanif Kureishi
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Olly Alexander
I always like a film about married couples in their older years; being from a generation whose parents’ splits are so rife, it’s kind of nice to have something to aspire to. Le Week-End is an honest look at marriage, asking - what happens to a once passionate relationship when you hit your sixties?
Meg (Lindsay Duncan) and Nick (Jim Broadbent) arrive in Paris, which is depicted as a cosmopolitan hub of hip, knowing young lovers. Viewed through the jaded lenses of the irritable couple, this setting clearly adds to the increasing dissatisfaction they’re each experiencing at their stage in life. The intention of the trip was to refocus on what they like about each other, but with each little mishap, Meg becomes more repelled, while Nick tries desperately to endear her.
Despite initial appearances of a couple of British empty-nesters on a touristy old jaunt in Paris, Le Week-End quickly evolves into a poignant observation of the conundrums encountered by those who have survived the mid-life-crisis-divorce, and are facing the subsequent struggles of boredom and stagnation. The main storyline is complemented by sophisticated asides that add detail, and introduce more complexity to the characters. Avoiding cliché flashbacks for illustration, Meg’s and Nick’s earlier selves emerge, as the liberated, spirited and passionate sides of them are drawn out by the refreshingly foreign Paris setting.
Marital tension dotted with spontaneous acts of irresponsible, playful behavior from the almost-retirees; the film and its protagonists are wittily charming. Duncan skillfully embodies the sharp-tongued, elegant Meg, whom you’re inclined to imagine as the Anna Karina type in her youth. Broadbent does an equally good job of playing the worn-down version of someone whose insights were once influential. Having only known the characters a few days, they’re each so likeable that you really hold your breath hoping their marriage will survive the weekend.
It’s at a dinner party amongst a posse of fashionable intellectuals in the prime of their thirties, that the take-home value of the film emerges. Sodden with the unfulfilled dreams of their own youth, both Nick and Meg are suddenly met with the realization of how conceited and naïve their trendy dinner companions actually are. Renewed appreciation for their experience and camaraderie sheds a new light on things, conveying the value of companionship over individual success.
I’m sure this film would only resonate more meaningfully with audiences that have experienced more of life’s long-term commitment challenges. But even from my perspective, I really appreciated the messages in it, and thought the theme of growing older was presented in a way that anyone could relate to. Without seeming heavy, the film maintains its substance with the perfect amount of humour and quirk. In cinemas 20th February.