Le Week-End (2013) Review

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With the collaboration of writer, Hanif Kureishi (Venus, The Mother) and director, Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes), comes a romantic comedy-drama in which a middle-aged couple take to Paris for a weekend to celebrate their anniversary, dealing with the mundane slump they find themselves in and the issues that they are battling with themselves and each other. With a backdrop of the most romantic city in the world, Le Week-End is a coming-of-old-age film, a movie in which love, passion and forgiveness is dealt with as our two characters meet old friends, eat lavish meals and wander through the streets, passing cafes, boutiques and restaurants, as they come to terms with their lives, and contemplate their futures.

Nick and Meg, played by the brilliant British tandem of Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince) and Lindsay Duncan (Mansfield Park), make their way to Paris for a break. They arrive at a downtrodden and messy hotel which Meg refuses to stay at, and so they, with the reluctance of Nick, find refuge at a beautiful and extravagant hotel in the middle of the city. With arguments, revelations and conversations, Nick and Meg spend their weekend rediscovering themselves and coming to terms with the negative aspects of their thirty-year marriage.

As a story, it’s fairly simple. We witness a single weekend in the life of a couple who are dealing with struggles, and envisioning their life after retirement and their children fleeing the nest. There are few other characters, with the exception of Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), a former university-colleague and friend of Nick’s, who offers a friendly invitation to a party during the film which sees one of the main scenes in which Nick opens up to a table of strangers, his wife, and his inviting old friend. The cast do a great job, and the writing is something I felt was a really strong aspect of the film. The tone changes regularly, with one moment our couple are laughing and sharing spirited memories, and in the next they are quarrelling bitterly, metaphorically biting one another’s heads off.

The setting, obviously, is a major positive for the film, for me anyway. Regardless of cliché or lack of originality that comes with placing a story in the middle of Paris, I still love to see the city used in this way. Providing another world, filled with sparkling lights, bustling avenues and artistic gatherings, Paris is the world in which our characters wish they were a part of as they share their disappointments of not being more successful. I always find myself enchanted by Paris in the movies, and my enjoyment with this movie had a lot to do with that, but beneath the city I still had a lot of fun with Nick and Meg, and the wonderful writing. Broadbent and Duncan have such a convincing chemistry that their love and hate for one-another came across as genuine, and they felt like two people who had spent the last thirty years in one another’s company.

Still, my enjoyment of the film may not be mirrored by everyone. I am a sucker for the setting, and I like the two leads, so I was instantly in a good mood before the film even began. The story is a little simplistic and offers little in terms of deeper meaning. There are moments in which our characters say things to one another that are hurtful and spiteful, but in the next breath they are laughing about it all. This felt a little strange to me, and brought a sense of unrelatability to them. Kureishi’s script, as much as I liked it, was filled with barbs that the characters threw at one another, and so often that they were a little weakened by the regularity in which they occurred.

For those expecting a light, sweet and sugary middle-aged comedy film, this perhaps isn’t for you. This is a much darker and cynical experience that I think many viewers expected it to be, something that drew me, personally, into the story more. It has moments of true brilliance, and times when it lets itself down and mismanages its potential, but overall I felt like it was enjoyable and well worth a watch.

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