*New York Film Festival 2013 Review*
Le Week-End is a magical little film that takes a look at the effects of love over a long period of time. It’s a bittersweet affair that shows what happens when longtime married couple Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan), celebrate their 30th anniversary in Paris. It’s a fitting trip, as they also celebrated their honeymoon in Paris. Only, this time things are much different for them.
Over their years their relationship has had its fair share of problem. Some more severe than others, and some that have gone unspoken. It’s unfortunate that their vacation time together brings out the ugly side of their relationship. As Richard Linkater has tackled with his Before… series, especially in its latest installment, Before Midnight, sometimes a vacation can bring out the harsh truths within a shared relationship.
From the get-go, the vacation starts in turmoil. Meg is dissatisfied with the hotel, and leads Nick against his will to book a room in a fancy upscale hotel that they can’t afford. At heart she’s a free spirit, opposite to his diffident way about things. They have no sex life, with the only shared heavy breathing that they share is climbing a flight of stairs together while site seeing. He constantly tries to rekindle the love that has so clearly burned out many years ago, but that doesn’t stop Nick from trying.
Touching on dark themes, screenwriter Hanif Kureishi’s script also has a fair share of comedy both light and dark, creating a balancing act. This comedic sense is lead by a absurdly great scene-stealing supporting performance from Jeff Goldblum who plays Morgan, and old college friend of Nick’s. He invites them to a fancy dinner party that he’s having where the duo go with plenty of reluctance. It’s here than Nick ends up bonding most with Morgan’s son Michael (Olly Alexander), smoking weed and sharing a bottle of liquor. During dinner Morgan gives a speech which requires a follow-up from Nick. In a cliche turn of events he ends up spilling his life story and the stress that the tension that the vacation has created for him and his wife. His job is at risk, his son is jobless and looking to return to the home that may not be a home at all for Nick without the love of his wife.
Jim Broadbent gives a sensitive and assured performance as Nick, capturing the essence of his character. He’s heartbroken when he has to ask his wife “Why won’t you let me love you?”, and all you need to do is look in Broadbent’s eyes to see that this man really means it. Lindsay Duncan counters this with Meg, who is tired and fed up with her marriage and where she is in this point in her life. She seeks for more, even though at the end of the day she knows she needs Nick, even though she is constantly ripping his poor heart out. In one evening she tells him she wants out of the marriage, and the very next she is panics when she wakes up and Nick is not by her side. Their relationship is up and down, confusing, and frustrating. It’s long lasting, bound to fail, but always ready to survive. It’s love.
Le Week-End works so well because of Broadbent and Duncan, who have all the chemistry needed to play a believable long term couple questioning their entire lives. There’s enough comedy there not too bring us down, but there’s enough melancholy in their reflection that has a bittersweet feel that works well. You find faults in both of their characters and will switch sides and become annoyed at them at different points. It’s a balanced journey that makes us reconsider what it takes to fall in love, and what it means to find “the one”. Is there a truth into any of these cliches, or at the end of the day, is having someone that you can rely on for all their faults and inconsistencies, just as good? These are all questions and themes that are brought up in Le Week-End, and its a joy to watch it all play out.