Nick (Broadbent) and Meg (Duncan) are a couple from Birmingham in their late middle age. They are spending the weekend in Paris to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary. Their relationship is going through a fractious and tense stage. When they arrive at the hotel they originally stayed in, Meg decides that it is unsuitable for her needs. They go looking for alternative accommodation. This obstacle begins their weekend of soul-searching. SPOILER ALERT: Nick and Meg find somewhere to stay.
LE WEEK-END feels loosely plotted. Meg and Nick wander all over Paris working out where they will have lunch or dinner. They are in the midst of a huge ongoing conversation. Nick wants to smooth things over, to make nice. Meg feels angry and wants to change her life in some profound way. The film has character development rather than story per se. It is the strength of writer Hanif Kureishi’s script that neither Nick nor Meg remains stuck in one mode; their emotional states, their feelings towards each other are mercurial. Both have reached an age where their next decisions will dictate the rest of their lives; there is no more time to get it wrong. They can’t hide in their jobs. She is bored of her teaching work. He is having difficulties with his professorship. They cannot find solace in each other. However, they still have a connection that holds them together, although not tightly so.
The ageing of the Baby Boom generation means films like this one are becoming more common. It has similarities with Mike Leigh’s ANOTHER YEAR (2010) which also starred Jim Broadbent and LATE BLOOMERS (2011) where a couple played by William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini have to deal with encroaching old age and also have to discover what they mean to each other now their children have adult lives and have left home. Nick and Meg are struggling with practical, emotional and existential questions. Where they should eat next is also of great importance.
Kureishi and director Roger Michell have created a serious drama with a light touch. I usually find Jim Broadbent rather full-on in more naturalistic parts and therefore enjoy his work more in movies like MOULIN ROUGE (2001) and the Harry Potter films. However, he is at his best here. You understand Meg’s antipathy towards him and yet we see his positive sides, too. Lindsay Duncan is excellent in portraying an ever-shifting, never-satisfied character who is at her wit’s end. Relatively late in the piece, Jeff Goldblum is introduced as an old university friend of the Broadbent character. He gives a performance that is full Goldblum, yet the odd line phrasings and beats are perfect for his character who is like an academic Tom Grunick.
Kureishi and Michell’s film will probably appeal to those who enjoyed their work on the Peter O’Toole vehicle VENUS (2006). That also dealt with issues of mortality and redefining one’s life in its last quarter. LE WEEK-END is in limited release in Australia. It runs for 93 minutes. I rate it 7/10.