Oh Paris, je t’aime!
What do you get when you mix the influence of French new wave director Jean-Luc Godard, the acting talents of Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, the sturdy direction of Roger Michell and poised writing of Hanif Kureishi? What feels like the unofficial fourth entry to the Before Sunrise independent film trilogy, Le Week-End is a film that could easily be mistaken as the extended look at the lives of Jesse and Celine, years after their fateful meeting in Vienna.
There is something exquisite and magical with films set in Paris, a city that is most commonly known as the ‘city of love’. And although Meg (Lindsay Duncan) and Nick Burroughs (Jim Broadbent) choose to revisit Paris after thirty years of marriage and re-live their honeymoon after a long and challenging life together, things don’t exactly go how each of them planned. Instead, what surfaces is a film budding with sophistication, film history, and bittersweet revelations that showcase a world of fading lovers and seasoned couples.
Le Week-End is a film set in the fine wine capital of the world. Surrounded by couples holding hands, sharing moments of pure love and wonder, Meg and Nick have some serious marital issues to face, but instead decide to lather over them with the spectacular sights and sounds of the Eiffel Tower, the River Seine and upper-class dining and accommodations. Both highly irritated with each other’s approach to life, their children and their relationship as a whole, Meg and Nick use the vacation as a means to reconnect. However, the couple unexpectedly run-into one of Nick’s former student’s and now renown author Morgan (Jeff Goldblum). Morgan invites Meg and Nick to a dinner party to celebrate the release of Morgan’s latest literary achievement. However, Meg and Nick get a lot more than just dinner among friends, and instead their evening turns into a plethora of ultimatums and heartfelt realities.
The grand beauty of Le Week-End lies in the chemistry between Broadbent and Duncan. As two educators in their own sense, Nick a university professor and Meg a teacher, the two honeymooners surely belong to a class of people who are in constant pursuit of life experiences. Sadly, the couple, who have lived their lives catering to the needs of others, can’t seem to get rid of their overly mature son, who has found his way back to basement of their home. Torn between what is right and what is necessary, Nick and Meg’s parental approach is clearly outlined in the short snippets of calls Nick receives from their son. Thankfully, the heart of Le Week-End is easily found, not in the commentary of parenting, but in the depth of fleeting love, and Duncan and Broadbent share a hate to love for one another that could only be seen in some of the misunderstood, post modern works of European artists almost sixty years prior.
Meg and Nick use their thirty year wedding anniversary as a muse towards re-connecting. Meg, seeing the vacation as a ‘last chance at love’ for her and her husband, adopts a very go with the flow, careless attitude towards their spending and experiences in the Parisian city. Early on, it is clear that Nick is the money saver and principle earner in the relationship. While Nick sees Paris as an escape from their mundane lives in Birmingham, he also sees it as an opportunity to indulge in a weekend filled with romance and wild, kinky sex with his gorgeous wife–whom he still very much loves and longs for. Meg on the other hand is mostly repulsed with her husband, describing him as “making her blood boil like no body else’. Where Nick replies that that indeed is “the sign of a deep connection”. Essentially, life happens. For every good, there is a bad, for every high, there is a low. Le Week-End showcases these highs and lows, few and far between.
While the couple travels together, they are mostly a duo of outsiders with one another. From the moment we meet the rambunctious Meg and patient Nick, we experience a dialogue between two people who are lost in translation, although, some how, both individuals find themselves speaking the same language. The witty screenplay by Kureishi (an author whose novel The Buddha of Suburbia was a novel I read in University) allows the internal thoughts of the characters to be read easily by the viewers and allow the actions of our characters to speak volumes. A city roaming with mimes, colourful characters and whacky personas, Meg and Nick find themselves lusting for the city of Paris to revive their emotions and expectations of one another.
It may not seem it, but aside from the fury and disagreements that Meg and Nick deal with, Le Week-End reminds viewers that “love is the only interesting thing” left in life, especially when you reach the age of our cinematic specimens. The answer may be love, but the factors determining this answer are the tools for the equation. Luckily for Michell, his lead couple is a pair of talented actors who devour their characters, expelling a familiarity of relationship woes between long-term couples and deteriorating lovers. Broadbent offers a special variation of the typical, artistic, working class Englishman. Full of well-upholstered manners, true English nuances and faint hints of British humour, he uses all of these subtle character traits to bring to life the habitual sexual urges of a man who has waited long enough to touch his naturally ageing, beautiful wife.
Duncan, who can only be described as the sole individual who may outshine the talented Broadbent, brings a heart and soulful magic of Le Week-End, that triumphs to the peak of the Eiffel Tower. Duncan, who approaches Meg as a women suffering from what she likes to call being “tri-polar”, has a tendency to change her mind and emotions at the flick of a switch. The full range of emotions the character of Meg actually shares with its audience goes from high to low, happy to sad in no time, and Duncan’s refined abilities as an actress are fully understood, and appreciated.
There surely is an interest in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s that Le Week-End is time capsuled in-between. Between the small nods to post-modernism, odes to the great Godard, and small references to the Beat Generation, aside from showing just how older couples “keep the torch burning”, the film explodes into a narrative with an immense amount of charm and congenitally. If you aren’t convinced, watch this!
There are moments where you want to strangle either Meg or Nick for the often times self-induced stress that they are experiencing in their lives. Although the film often times just sits and waits for issues to be resolved, it is apparent that time does not fix all issues, sometimes making them worse for a couple with extreme bottled up emotions and and unrealistic expectations and fantasies for themselves.
Sometimes we are walking, strolling along the streets of Paris with Meg and Nick casually. Other times, we are dashing through alleyways, escaping our hotel tab. There are even times where we are just sitting in a café, sipping on our drinks, waiting, watching, letting the wonder of the city captivate us. And other times, we are doing the madison dance with Jeff Goldblum, laughing, smiling, living. Le Week-End captivated me, and I may not know why, but like any other weekend, its always too short and long overdue.
Night Film Reviews: 8.5 Out of 10 Stars.
Are Jim Boradbent and Lindsay Duncan convincing as an older couple reconnecting in the city of love? Is the formula for ailing love as captivating as the showcasing of new love? What did you think of Le Week-End? Leave all your comments and thoughts below!
Here is the trailer for Le Week-End.