Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg Burrows (Lindsay Duncan) return to Paris, the city of their honeymoon, to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Designed as a weekend to rediscover some romance in their sometimes bumpy marriage, but long-established tensions break out in humorous and often painful ways.
Review by Louise Keller:
Disarmingly truthful with a bittersweet centre, this highly observant exploration of the complex shades of a long marriage, complete with its tensions, biting barbs, playfulness and loving familiarity weaves an edgy tale. The rhythms of the well worn relationship between Jim Broadbent's Nick and Lindsay Duncan's Meg, as they try to revitalise the dynamic by an anniversary weekend in Paris are as syncopated as the music that highlights the couple's discomfort. Screenwriter Hanif Kureisi (collaborating with director Roger Michell) picks up on the everyday irritations that plague Nick and Meg, and anyone who has been married for a long time will recognise the triggers and truths as the relationship goes through the ringer. It's funny, awkward, perceptive and real, and the added bonus is a trip to Paris that glistens and exudes its infectious joie de vivre.
The tensions between Nick and Meg are apparent from the outset as they sit side by side on the Eurostar en route to Paris. After overcoming the first misstep, being the disaster of revisiting their (now) shoddy honeymoon hotel from 30 year earlier, Champagne bubbles in the unaffordable five star hotel allow a fresh start, despite the brittle interaction with digs about lack of sexual interest and an ongoing exchange that could best be described as love-hate. There are together moments as they huff and puff up the steps to Sacre Coeur and visit their literary heroes at the Montparnasse Cemetary, but there is discord as well, when she points out he likes things too steady, while she is ready to walk out and wants to learn Italian, play the piano and do the tango. An attempt at passion is replaced by the equivalent of a cold shower - a dead-end matter of fact discussion about sex and desire.
Jeff Goldblum is astonishingly good as the vain New York author Morgan, who is the catalyst as Nick and Meg quantify their issues. The sequence at Morgan's elegant apartment where insecurities and jealousies are articulated after pot is smoked and a proposition made is high drama indeed. Morgan's loud superficiality (he even writes emails loudly) is a sharp contrast to Nick's gauche demeanour. Is Nick's frank and revealing declaration at dinner brave or foolish? In any event it is highly moving.
It's a marvellous screenplay with a myriad of issues cleverly interwoven, not the least being money - or the lack of it. Fidelity, love, solitude, loneliness and companionship are all canvassed in Le Week-End; all the while the Eiffel Tower shimmers at night through the tumultuous ups and downs that are part and parcel of a relationship.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Textured, truthful, tart, painful, hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting and compelling, Le Week-End is a landmark film, as was Roger Michell's Notting Hill (1999). And for similar reasons, though with different characters, settings and themes. Love, of course, remains the common element, but while Notting Hill explored new love, Le Week-End explores old / stale / grumpy love 30 years after the wedding, when the spirit is willing - sort of - but the flesh and the will are weak.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan find the beautiful balance between rich, emotional expression and chewing the furniture. They inhabit their characters, Nick and Meg, thoroughly English and quite out of their natural habitat of provincial England, spending Le Week-End of their anniversary back in glorious Paris. Paris, of course, plays her part with gusto and provides more than a stunning backdrop. It provides the emotional and cultural landscape for the battle of the long distance lovers.
This is perfectly teased out when they bump into Morgan (Jeff Goldblum) - or rather, he bumps into them in the street, profusely friendly and in awe of Nick, the self effacing philosophy professor who many years ago inspired Morgan, the now successful writer and whatever else. He invites them round to a soiree the next night, determined to please and to reconnect. He had come across them during one of Nick and Meg's rare, spontaneous kisses in public - unlike their many clashes that grow and recede as they do in all relationships. Acutely observed scenes litter the film, filling it with recognisable (and painful) moments that build to a collage of love, pain and respite.
These roller coaster sequences give the film its riveting emotional attraction as we loath and love the characters ... more or less in tune with how they loath and love themselves and each other. Humour oils it all, from the charming to the darkest possible.
Standout scenes include the one at the table at Morgan's soiree, where Morgan's highly complimentary tribute to Nick is followed by Nick's jaw dropping deconstruction of his miseries and failures, delivered with stiff English upper lip, making it bleakly funny but also deeply touching. As Stephen Fry has said, the whole point of humour is that you can laugh at something and simultaneously take it seriously. But equally effective are many more subtle scenes.
Perhaps the most accomplished piece of writing (by Hanif Kureishi) and direction is the way the film's central element (Nick & Meg's love/hate marriage) is resolved, delivered as a dry testament to relationships that endure - despite human error. Le Week-End is certainly one of my early favourite films of the year.
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LE WEEK-END (TBA)
CAST: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Olly Alexander, Xavier De Guillebon, Lee Michelsen
PRODUCER: Kevin Loader
DIRECTOR: Roger Michell
SCRIPT: Hanif Kureishi
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nathalie Durand
EDITOR: Kristina Hetherington
MUSIC: Jeremy Sams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Emmanuelle Duplay
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 20, 2014