Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan starring in a classy drama about the ever-changing relationship of two married sixty-somethings sounds like a must-see with more than a little allusion of Richard Linklater’s Before… series. Whilst the lead performances are quite excellent, what exactly director Roger Michell has to say is never quite clear.
Le Week-End follows Nick (Broadbent) and Meg (Duncan) – a long-married British couple who travel to Paris for a weekend break. However, this is not plain sailing as the couple’s relationship problems come to the forefront.
Nick and Meg are not likeable protagonists – which is by no means a bad thing, it simply results in a lack of compassion and engagement towards the pair. Both characters key attribute is their overwhelming sympathy for themselves – Meg feels unfulfilled (and has no issue about letting it be known) and Nick is a man plagued by demons of self-doubt and fear of abandonment. Both Broadbent and Duncan ensure that Le Week-Ending is watchable and strip back the veneer of faux-sentimentality that we traditionally see in the romantic drama. However, it is Michell’s depiction of the couple’s relationship that proved truly troubling to this reviewer.
Perhaps as a younger viewer, Le Week-End is alienating in that the complexities of a twenty-five year plus-marriage are not something that tends to be thought about a lot. Apologies for using that old cliché, but is love not supposed to be a universal language – regardless of what age or stage it is at? Le Week-End as a representation of how relationships can yo-yo is a fine one, but an extreme one: Nick and Meg can go from the height of intense love to threatening each other with divorce in the space of one short scene. It is this extreme change in dynamic that means it is never easy to grasp what exactly Michell is trying to say – other than people and relationships change and are not simple.
This results in a watch that is not particularly compelling to the average viewer. Yes there will be occasions where we can all relate to the impromptu moments of fun, blood-minded arguments, self-doubt, and unhappiness – although in this high volume it feels somewhat erratic and ultimately draining. The introduction of Jeff Goldblum’s character Morgan – Nick’s old university pal – perks things up through a spirited performance that only he is capable of. However like Goldblum’s character, it is hard not to think that Le Week-End is slightly full of itself and smug about its own complexities.
Fortunately, cinematography from Nathalie Durand, captures the blustery Autumn of Paris and fits the tone of Michell’s bittersweet feature, often resulting in a picturesque watch.
It is the stellar performances from Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan that dominate bitterly complex, and often alienating Le Week-End which may prove more of a hit with older audiences.
11th of October 2013
Curzon Film World
Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, Jeff Goldblum