More than a fleeting fog of contrivance
Life begins and also falls apart at 60 in the cinematic collaborations of director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette). In 2003, they sensitively explored the spiky issue of romance across the generational divide between grandmother (Anne Reid) and her grown-up daughter’s hunky beau (Daniel Craig) in The Mother. There was a similar lightness of touch in the Oscar nominated 2006 film, Venus, in which a septuagenarian thesp (Peter O’Toole) gets a twinkle in his eye around his twenty-something carer (Jodie Whittaker).
Laughter and heartbreak walk hand in clammy hand in Michell and Kureishi’s latest confection, Le Week-end, an elegiac portrait of a married couple testing the robustness of their relationship during a celebratory weekend in Paris.
The French capital looks glorious and provides a suitably swoonsome backdrop to Kureishi’s verbal grenades that explode with devastating impact.
Regret hangs in the air like parfum and amorous advances (“May I touch you?”) are swatted away with a casual indifference (“What for?”) that cuts to the bone.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, who played onscreen spouses in the 2006 TV movie Longford, spare themselves and each other few blushes as the husband and wife, who have watched their brood fly the nest and must now contemplate spending their twilight years solely in each other’s company.
“Once the kids have gone, what’s left of us?” wonders Meg (Duncan), who has chosen to celebrate 30 years with husband Nick (Broadbent) by revisiting old haunts in the city of amour.
Festivities start on a sour note when the two-star hotel that Nick has chosen turns out to be a dog-eared vision in beige.
“I knew this trip was going to be a disaster!” snipes Meg.
She takes charge and they move into a plush suite with a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower that is clearly going to test their credit card to its limit.
Walks around arrondissements are accompanied by occasional bickering and one evening, the couple cross paths with Nick’s university pal Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), who invites them to a dinner party.
“They’re French. I’m sure their lives are terrible too,” whispers Nick as they enviously survey a room festooned with well-heeled intelligentsia.
Le Week-end doesn’t indulge in Nick’s habit of rose-tinting the past, which compels Meg to sigh, “You always did edit out the arguments and misery.”
Kureishi rubs salt into every open wound, while Michell elicits powerful performances from his leads as they dance awkwardly around the possibility they might be happier apart.
Pacing meanders like Nick and Meg during their sojourn, and the narrative diversion with Goldblum and his neglected son (Olly Alexander) doesn’t ring entirely true. Yet the raw emotional honesty of Broadbent and Duncan shines through this fleeting fog of contrivance.
Drama/Romance/Comedy. Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Olly Alexander, Brice Beaugier. Director: Roger Michell.