A few minutes into Roger Michell's Le Week-End, it occurred to me that I wasn't particularly enjoying the film and I didn't particularly care for these people, Nick (Jim Broadbent, an Oscar winner for Iris) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan, About Time), a long married couple who've arrived in Paris for a second honeymoon and, perhaps, a last chance at actually committing to spending their twilight years together.
I experienced a similar feeling not so long ago while watching the irritating yet compelling performance of Meryl Streep in the stage adaptation of August: Osage County, a film so faithful to its original roots and so well acted that it was at times hard to actually "enjoy" anything about the film.
I didn't enjoy Nick and Meg, at least not early on, yet there was something compelling about their irritable comfortableness with each other that kept me watching long after I'd thought to myself "Well, this is going to be mighty disappointing."
Le Week-End is not, in fact, disappointing at all. Some care referring to it as a sort of late life version of Richard Linklater's somewhat similarly toned trilogy of films with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. It's a fair comparison, but it doesn't quite do justice to the rather extraordinary performances served up here by Broadbent and Duncan, two consummate performers who give such lived in and natural performances here that it wouldn't be a stretch to say that they truly feel like a couple who've been married for many years and can't quite decide how they feel about such a fact.
Michell, an under-appreciated British director responsible for such films as Notting Hill, Venus, and the recent Hyde Park on Hudson, has always had a bit of a gift for capturing authentic relational dynamics on the big screen that feel both tense and remarkably genuine. The same is very much the case here as the vibrant and adventurous Meg feels almost constantly in emotional and physical conflict with the far more intentional and hesitating Nick. It would be a caricature, however, for these two to leave us wondering how on earth they ever even got together. Michell is a much director and Hanif Kureishi, collaborating with Michell for the fourth time, is much to honest of a writer to allow such a thing to happen. The relationship between Nick and Meg feels genuine, stressed for sure, but also bubbling with a comfortable sincerity and a genuine but tired affection for one another. It's brought beautifully, and not always pleasantly, to life by both Broadbent and Duncan. There is a friction between the two, at times a rather cruel one inflicted by Meg, that eventually serves up what feels like a well earned fault line that has developed between the two and threatens their union. It could easily feel one-sided given that Nick, a rather vulnerable chap, spends much of the time trying to re-ignite the spark while Meg spends most of the film trying to figure out if the spark is worth igniting once again.
It doesn't feel one-sided.
Le Week-End doesn't feel one-sided. It feels like real life. It feels like what happens when you've spent your entire life with a human being and you look back over that life and see all the ups and downs, peaks and valleys. It feels like that moment in life when you find yourself asking yourself "Was this all really worth it?" and it's a genuine question that needs to be answered and, in the end, could actually shape what happens next.
Le Week-End, which despite everything rather dramatic I've written here is actually quite funny, really bursts to life when Jeff Goldblum shows up as a successful American author now living in Paris with his pregnant wife. Goldblum's Morgan, an old friend of Nick's, gives the film a zest and energy that helps to fuel where everything is about to end up and it helps it feel true to the journey we've experienced with Nick and Meg.
Le Week-End is currently in nationwide limited release with Music Box Films and has just opened up in my home market of Indianapolis at the Keystone Landmark. If you want to see an honest story beautifully written and brought to life by a stellar cast, I recommend you seek it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic