After the first 15 minutes of Le Week-End, I couldn't stand the film's two lead characters, Nick and Meg Burrows. He was drowsy and a bit oafish, while she was sour and prickly to the point of being unlikeable. Luckily, a few moments later I realized I was not supposed to like them since they could barely tolerate themselves or each other.
The emotionally nuanced script by Hanif Kureishi drops right into their lives just as the couple is arriving in Paris to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. All of their children have recently left the nest and they are somewhat punchy from imagining a future without anyone to take care of anymore... except each other. Their past infidelities and indiscretions are hinted at and danced around, but Kureishi trusts the audience enough to avoid any hand-holding as they get to know the couple while they leisurely (but never sluggishly) explore the city as well as their relationship.
Director Roger Michell has been responsible for some great films (Notting Hill, Venus, Enduring Love) and some absolute stinkers (Hyde Park on the Hudson, Morning Glory, Changing Lanes), but here he discovers something in his craft he had never approached before: subtlety. The bittersweet truths he lays bare about long-term commitment and the fascinating questions of what constitutes happiness across decades of love are never overshadowed by pat romantic comedy resolutions. This film is gorgeously realized and rich in locale as well as in the film's marvelously drawn characters.
Jim Broadbent (Topsy-Turvy, Iris) and Lindsay Duncan (About Time, TV's "Rome") bring such a lived-in quality to Nick and Meg that no exposition is needed to know the dynamics at play in their relationship. If the camera did not love Paris so much, Le Week-End could easily be re-staged as a theatrical production along the lines of a slightly less brutal Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf just based on their balletic wordplay alone.
Le Week-End does not ever take the easy way out, and is sure to inspire discussions about the nature of love that will continue long after the movie is over. Le Week-End bounces between comedy, drama, tragedy and romance effortlessly, just like a good relationship should.
Dir. Roger Michell
Tin Pan Theater