Dir: Roger Michell. UK. 2013. 93mins
Roger Michell’s Le Week-end is a bittersweet delight as it details the rambling – and occasionally romantic – misadventures of a long-married British couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) as they revisit Paris for the first time since their honeymoon, but find that their trip causes resentment and bitterness rather than reinforcing love and affection.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are a real delight of a couple struggling to find reasons to still be together but also bonded by a real sense of humour and shared values.
Rather than fitting easily into the current round of British ‘old folks rediscovering love and happiness’ as in Quartet and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the film coasts on a tide of prickly bitterness interspersed with moments of genuine affection, all set against an elegant backdrop. The pairing of director Roger Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi works well here, concocting a nicely waspish and sophisticated film full of laughs and gentle drama.
Meg (Duncan) and Nick (Broadbent) have been together for years, and for their thirtieth wedding anniversary they arrive in Paris to stay in the same hotel where they had their honeymoon. But their arrival in the City of Light goes none to well – the hotel is so shabby Meg refuses to stay there, and marches them off to a swanky hotel where they take a vast suite and blithely hand over a credit card.
But their relationship involves sniping at each other with barbed recriminations followed by moments of gentle affection. He wants to touch her, but she snaps “what for?” and while they have moments of almost childlike fun – sneaking out of a restaurant without paying a bill – there is an undercurrent of unhappiness beneath the surface of this long marriage.
Things come to a head when they bump into an American old university friend (Jeff Goldblum) of Jim. He is brimming with excitement about his success in Paris – also his beautiful second wife, baby on the way and new book to be published – and invites them to his apartment for a cocktail party he is having. Things reach rock bottom when Jim drunkenly recounts how awful life is as compared to the successes of his old friend.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are a real delight of a couple struggling to find reasons to still be together but also bonded by a real sense of humour and shared values. Thorny on the outside, there is a real tenderness to their bittersweet relationship, with Paris the added ingredient that brings the bile to the surface but also helps ease their issues.
Equally fun is Jeff Goldblum, delivering a typically idiosyncratic performance – his line delivery and playful use of dialogue is always a pleasure – and seemingly having a good deal a fun alongside such equally strong performers. To be treasured is one of the final scenes as the threesome gather in a bar, sip wine and put a coin in the jukebox and pay tribute to one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most iconic film sequences.
Production companies: Film4, BFI, Curzon Film World, Le Bureau, Free Range Films
International sales: Embankment Films,www.embankmentfilms.com
Producer: Kevin Loader
Executive producers: Sue Bruce-Smith, Philip Knatchbull, Louisa Dent
Screenplay: Hanif Kureishi
Cinematography: Nathalie Durand
Editor: Kristina Hetherington
Production designer: Emmanuelle Duplay
Music: Jeremy Sams
Main cast: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum