Film Review: Le Week-end
Music Box Films
"Le Week-end" follows Meg and Nick (Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent), a couple trying to rekindle their romance by revisiting Paris, the city where they had their honeymoon 30 years earlier. We are provided with snapshots from 48 hours of ever-so-British revelry and remembrance, with a dose of heartache to boot.
Broadbent and Duncan play their roles passionately and intensely, Broadbent with a cloying desire for intimacy and Duncan with desperation for freedom and independence. The way in which each character reacts to the flaws in their marriage only pulls them further apart, but it seems strange that they have not tested the relationship before. Perhaps they're trying to turn a new leaf. Perhaps something is bubbling to the surface that has been there all along. The course of events that plays out leaves much to the imagination with regard to their past. To the viewer, the couple feels so distant that it seems almost unbelievable they were ever in love at all.
Through extended restaurant and museum visits filled with uneasy silence and sparse conversation, Director Michell follows the relationship of these two drifting people. There are moments when Meg and Nick try to force romance into their relationship, but they know each other too well for it to fully thrive. Then there are times when real romance creeps through the cracks in their facade of a happy marriage. These are the sweetest, most intimate portraits in the movie. Michell follows Meg and Nick through Paris using close-up and medium shots that reveal every twinge in the muscles of their faces and every glimmer of resentment or love in their eyes.
It is clear that the struggling couple has an intimate connection, regardless of whether that connection is based on love anymore. The dynamics of their relationship provide a sharp contrast to the life of Nick's friend, Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), who lives in Paris. An eager, effusive American with success Nick could only dream of, Morgan has never been able to establish a connection with anyone. Though contemporaries, Morgan has decided to start his life a second time; he has a second wife with a second child on the way, but in doing so, he eschews his old marriage and feigns a relationship with his teenage son.
There's a sharp edge in "Le Week-end" that suggests a comedic wit at hand in Hanif Kureishi's screenwriting. However, what is delivered is all drama. The slow pace of the film is reflective of the slow and enduring march of time, never quickening but unwilling to stop and smell the roses. Nick's and Meg's weekend away is an attempt to pause and reflect on their life and future together, but those moments rarely come to fruition.
"Le Week-end" is a romance, but it is a painful one. It is full of contradictions: between Nick and Morgan, between the ways they view their marriage and between the playful jazz underscoring tense or uncomfortable moments. There's also the contradiction between Michell's better-known works like "Notting Hill" and this one. Every character in this film is purposefully fickle or contradictory. Normally steely Meg unravels at the site of her honeymoon hotel room repainted beige (to her a symbol of her faded marriage). Nick, who identified himself as a scholar and philosopher, is forced to leave that community and is left feeling lost and abandoned. The beauty is that these contradictions don't feel forced, contrived or out of character. "Le Week-end" is full of small moments of agonizing and beautiful honesty about love and relationships, which make the film truly shine.