Seeking out the

5000 greatest films

in a century of cinema

Le Week-End

Directed by Roger Michell
Produced by Kevin Loader
Written by Hanif Kureishi
With: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, and Jeff Goldblum
Cinematography: Nathalie Durand
Editing: Kristina Hetherington
Music: Jeremy Sams
Runtime: 93 min
Release Date: 11 October 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Color: Color

If Richard Linklater is unable to get Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpey to make a fifth installment of his Before Sunrise series when they are in their mid-sixties, we could all perhaps rent Le Week-End to fill in the gap. This thorny but charming picture is the third film about growing older from director Roger Michelle and writer Hanif Kureishi (who made The Mother and Venus together). The ever- present Jim Broadbent and the Tony and Oliver award-winning Lindsey Duncan play a married couple who take a 30th anniversary trip to Paris where they open themselves and each other to a series of long-repressed, difficult feelings. Like Before Midnight, the scenes depicting their conversations and arguments run the gamut from brutally truthful to woefully contrived. This dichotomy gives both films the very distinctive quality of inducing near simultaneous enchantment and frustration, which perfectly mirrors the conflicted feelings of love and hate felt by the two characters as they verbally wrestle with each other and with their own hearts.

It is no accident that Le Week-End shares its title with a film by Jean Luc Godard--much of the youthful energy and spirit found in Godard's work of that period is clearly what these characters are missing in their later years. Like Before Midnight's hat-tip to Rossellini's neo-realist classic Journey to Italy, Le Week-End has an effective homage to Godard's paradigm of the French New Wave, A Band Apart. These little cinematic touches are more then just winks to film buffs; like music from a specific period, they set a wistful mood, grounding the characters in a nostalgia for a time in life when anything seemed possible. 

It’s quite interesting how many strong films from this year concern themselves with dissatisfaction in long-term relationships. Perhaps as a society we have become so disillusioned by the world around us that we want to challenge and reassure ourselves about our personal life choices--the fact that most of these films end on at least a somewhat reassuring note is telling. Like Before Midnight, Afternoon Delight, Concision and other recent movies about internal frustration, Le Week-End's primary strength lies in the wonderful performances of its leads and how well they convey feelings that are difficult to express verbally. Though Broadbent is so overused my first reaction is to avoid any movie if he's in it, he never fails to win me over once he appears on screen. His Nick is such a sad and passive man, yet it's hard not to be charmed by him.  Lindsay Duncan (who also plays Bill Nighy's wife in this year's Richard Curtis movie About Time--a more thankless role) creates an even more complex and prickly character in Meg. Meg's dissatisfaction with life pulls her in so many directions it is both funny and apt when Nick jokingly asks if she thinks she might be bi-polar. Jeff Goldblum completes the triad as an old University friend of Nick's in a very Goldblumesque performance that is a tad out of character with the rest of the film--but it has been so long since we've gotten a nice, full-on Goldblum performance in a movie that I relished his time on screen.