They are not young anymore, and they have problems to deal with. As following their rather imperfect weekend, “Le Week-End” initially draws our attention with those lovely sights of Paris and then gradually reveals an honest picture of two aging people who have known and lived with each other for many years. While amusing us with the warm moments of how they try to energize their long relationship, the movie does not step back from the darker moments of discontentment and resentment which have been nurtured inside them, and then it eventually goes deeper than expected in the end.
As we listen to Nick(Jim Broadbent) and Meg(Lindsay Duncan), we get to know about this plain middle-aged British couple bit by bit. Nick is a philosophy professor of some university in Birmingham while Meg is a professor teaching biology. They have been living together for more than 30 years since their wedding, and, like many couples, there are a number of problems in their life including their son who is an unemployed pothead and will probably move back to their house. They decide that they need some fresh air of change in their life, and they hope their weekend trip in Paris will rekindle their good old romantic feeling they once experienced during their honeymoon.
When they arrive, Paris looks as lovely as before, but things do not go as well for them as planned from the beginning. When they arrive at a hotel where they stayed during their honeymoon, they stand aghast at how much the hotel has been changed, and Meg instantly dislikes their reserved room which is quite smaller than they remembered(she complains to her husband, “You want me to sleep in coffin.”). At her insistence, they go to another hotel which looks a lot better but a lot pricier, and they come to stay in an suite room which surely looks too expensive for a middle-class couple like them(the manager tells them that Tony Blair once stayed in this room).
Anyway, they walk around the city and have a good time together. They visit the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur although it becomes harder for them to climb the steep stair to that famous church, and they also go to the Montmartre cemetery where famous writers such as Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett, and Jean-Paul Sartre were buried. They look around several restaurants until they settle on one nice restaurant, and, as enjoying their meal with a glass of fine wine, they come to feel more enlivened than before.
However, as Nick and Meg are more relaxed and opened to each other, we see more of the frictions between them. Nick confesses to Meg that he was forced to accept early retirement due to a minor but insensitive mistake during his lecture, and he also reflects on how disappointing his life has been. There was a time when he was young, ambitious, and hopeful, but now he becomes a passive middle-class guy who prefers to be steady and stable, and he feels his emotional need to love and be loved more than ever.
While caring about her husband in spite of her rather frigid manner, Meg has a different thought about their relationship. After their children grew up enough to leave their house, they are now alone together as they were in the beginning, and she begins to wonder about whether she should try different things for her life, if not for their life. While her husband clumsily tries to approach to her, she feels more dissatisfaction while not entirely rejecting him, and the level of discord between them gets louder as they continue to bicker with each other. It was merely a matter of bathroom tile at first, and then the circumstance becomes more serious when they begin to have more doubt and bitterness about their relationship.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are constantly engaging to watch while the mood between their characters keeps being shifted throughout the movie, and Nick and Meg comes to us as a three-dimensional couple rather than a couple of British stereotypes. They are not as young and passionate as they were, and it becomes more apparent that their bond is not as strong as it seemed at first, but they still can have some fun together. After they attempt runaway at a restaurant after their expensive dinner, they cannot help but feel young and romantic again, and they gladly seize and embrace the moment even though it is just a temporary one to pass away soon.
The director Roger Michell and the screenplay writer Hanif Kureishi previously worked together in “Venus”(2006), which gave late Peter O’Toole a chance to give his last great performance to be remembered. That film was about an aging man’s last attempt at romance, and its candid, unpretentious attitude toward its subject made the film both poignant and humorous along with O’Toole’s last Oscar-nominated performance.
While it is sunnier than that winter romance film in comparison, “Le Week-end” has its own moments of hard honesty inside its gentle autumn mood as its main characters facing the hurtful possibility of separation around its third act. Nick and Meg incidentally come across Nick’s old friend Morgan(Jeff Goldblum) during their first day in Paris, and they are invited to Morgan’s dinner party to be held on the next day. As they separately talk with Morgan and others at Morgan’s apartment, they feel more estrangement between them due to their quarrel right before the party, and that situation is followed by a very awkward moment for both of them as well others around them. Duncan and Broadbent fully captures the emotional undercurrent between their characters during that painful scene, and Goldblum is also good in his droll performance complementing his co-actors’. Morgan may be one of those shallow intellectuals who just happen to be luckier than others, but the movie does not resort to making him into a simple-minded buffoon. He is indeed silly and superficial, but he is also a nice guy who is aware of his limits to some degrees, and there is an amusingly insightful moment in which Morgan confides to Nick on how he still feels insecure inside even after marrying his new wife for a new start.
“Le Week-End” is a small film both thoughtful and enjoyable, and it certainly helps that Paris looks nice in the film as much as it did in other notable films. I have not had any serious relationship yet, but the movie tells me several valuable things about long-term relationship, and it came to my mind that my parents will probably enjoy this film more than me. Considering that they have been married for 34 years and recently traveled a lot around the world, they may smile to each other while watching Nick and Meg on the screen.
SC: You will probably like it.