Le Week-End (2013)

Le Week-EndNick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) can’t agree on anything, aside from their mutual dissatisfaction. Even on the way to Paris for their wedding anniversary, the pair struggle to be civil with one another. At their hotel, Meg refuses to stay in the room booked by her husband on account of it being beige, dragging him instead on a taxi tour of the city before taking a room at one of the most prestigious places in town. Thrifty Nick is just as adept at frustrating his wife, smacking his lips while he eats and commenting on her weight while lamenting their lack of a sex life. When they run into one of Nick’s old school friends, a successful author who exudes contentment (Jeff Goldblum), they are invited to an intimate dinner at his Parisian apartment.

From director Roger Mitchell, Le Week-End is an unusually successful attempt at an anti-romantic-comedy, or at least an honest one. The so-called “City of Love”, Paris is shot with an uncompromising lens, the landmarks mired in mist or partially obscured by foliage, the restaurants and people deprived of the romance with which they are usually imbued. It creates a surprisingly mundane, realistic atmosphere that extends to the central relationship between Nick and Meg. These aren’t star-crossed lovers or romantic heroes but ordinary people, as disarmingly recogniseable as they are disconcertingly difficult to read. Broadbent makes his turn in Mike Leigh’s similarly naturalistic Another Year seem positively jolly.

There is a wonderfully ambiguous tension between the two, not sexual but something far more difficult to define. They argue about everything — at one point Meg even pushes her elderly husband to the ground and threatens to leave him, while on another she is hounded with accusations of some past infidelity — but it is always clear that they share an irrefutable fondness for one another. There are scenes of real chemistry and camaraderie, as they laugh at in-jokes and share similar tastes, but there’s always an edge that prevents you from ever feeling truly comfortable in their company. They are not the most likeable characters, and for much of the film you find it almost impossible to warm to them individually or root for their relationship, which only adds to the uncertainty and reality.

Things come to a head with the introduction of Jeff Goldblum’s character, and both Nick and Meg are at breaking point when they show up at his door for a badly-timed dinner party. Once inside they are introduced to an array of young bohemian types who are all successful — and satisfied — in their individual careers. It seems almost absurd given the tone of the opening hour, and indeed it proves too much for Nick and Meg, the former of whom ends up smoking weed with his host’s angsty son while the latter is inclined to accept a sexual advance from one of the young partygoers. Goldblum is a joy, channeling his usual distracted diffidence to fittingly dubious effect, as he confesses to a confounded Nick just how much he owes to his old school friend.

At first glance the ending might seem slightly out of touch with the rest of the narrative, but on second thought it is just as bittersweet as everything that has come before. A film that is as emotionally complicated as it is compelling, Le Week-End is a wonderfully authentic piece of filmmaking that benefits from Mitchell’s uncompromising direction, Hanif Kureishi’s scathing script and two beautiful performances from Broadbent and Duncan. You won’t love it, but nobody’s asking you to.

4-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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