“Le Week-End” was one of my more eagerly anticipated films of the 2014 Spring movie season. My absolute adoration for the city of Paris combined with the intriguing story of a conflicted older couple was enough to get me onboard. This British drama marks the fourth collaboration between director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi. While I’m not familiar with their other collaborative works, there are undeniable signs of quality and brilliance in “Le Week-End” even though the final product isn’t as captivating as I had hoped.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan play Nick and Meg Burrows. In light of their 30th wedding anniversary, the couple takes off to Paris, France – the place of their honeymoon. It doesn’t take long for us to see that their marriage is on life support and Nick especially hopes this trip will resuscitate it. Years of pent-up emotion and complex feelings boil to the surface and Nick and Meg try to navigate the waves the best way they know how.
“Le Week-End” isn’t a formulaic run-of-the-mill couples drama. It has a very grounded sensibility and its approach to storytelling is unique. Much like the struggling relationship it depicts, “Le Week-End” features a number of mood shifts and knotty emotional moments. There is a stinging realism to Nick and Meg’s relationship that separates the film from most other movies of this type. The movie also moves at a fairly slow pace and there are moments where nothing much happens. That’s not always a problem but there are times where it works against the picture.
I can certainly appreciate the deliberate pace and the occasional idling that we get throughout the film. On the other hand, there were times when I really wanted the movie to kick into another gear. The very thing that sets it apart from other movies of this type is the same thing that kept me from truly loving the film. I also left with a number of questions that the ending never answered or hinted at. It’s not that it is a terrible ending, but I can’t say it was all that satisfying.
I can say that Broadbent and Duncan were extraordinary. Both are seasoned performers and their chemistry is spot-on. The way they develop their characters and expose their flaws and frustrations is nearly flawless. Even when the script shortchanges them (and there are a small handful of weird moments), Broadbent and Duncan rise above the material. I also really liked seeing Jeff Goldblum appear as an old acquaintance of Nick’s. He is a fine actor who I believe always adds good moments to a film.
While “Le Week-End” may not be the brilliant film I was hoping for, it’s still an easy movie to recommend. It makes pretty good use of one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the story of Nick and Meg is certainly an interesting one. But I really hoped that Michell would pull more from this magical setting and that Kureishi would give his performers more fluid material. But even these issues can be overlooked to a degree. “Le Week-End” strives to give us a movie that bucks convention and it puts two truly strong performances in front of us. Those are things I can certainly appreciate.