Le Week-End (2013) Directed by Roger Michell. With Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan and Jeff Goldblum.
The poster for Le Week-End boasts “From the director of Notting Hill” as if that might in some way indicate a reassurance of cosy ground for fans of slushy fairytale romance. And while Roger Michell’s film is set in Paris, the romantic capital of the world, there isn’t so much as a whiff of anything approaching a Ronan Keating ballad. No, this is an inverted romance – told with a scabrous wit, that in many ways aims to subvert the likes of Notting Hill.
The film stars Jim Broadbent (Nick) and Lindsay Duncan (Meg) as a pair sixty-something’s on a weekend break to Paris to mark the occasion of their wedding anniversary. Of the pair, Nick is the one intent on building bridges, whereas Meg seems to view the trip as an opportunity to break free and rediscover herself. This clash of intentions gives way to some spiky relationship humour from which Broadbent and Duncan deliver two wonderfully contrasting turns. Amid their harsh personal critiques of each other (Duncan is the most snappy), we are able to sense a deep and profound connection between these two people, who have in a sense worn each other down to a nub. Duncan especially seems to blame everything that’s wrong in her life on her husband, who in turn feels invisible to the person he adores the most.
With plenty of accordion in the soundtrack, coupled with the cobbled streets of Paris, chic hotel and restaurant interiors, Roger Michell ensures his film has at least the look of a contemporary European rom-com. In a sense, it recalls Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy only turned on its head and given a healthy dash of thorny, fed-up-of-it-all British humour. Midway through, Jeff Goldblum arrives to deliver yet another one of his infectiously eccentric turns, which adds a welcome air of upbeat energy to compliment the piece.
Thanks to a fine script, Le Week-End is a prime example of a simple idea made endlessly complex by its focus on two people and the infinite reasons that have led them to be who they are when we meet them. There are some aching truths about the nature of long-term relationships that range between bitter-sweet and dagger-in-the-heart sharp. There is also the suggestion that true love conquers all. Ahh. 4/5