by George Wolf
When my brother and I were kids, we would quietly laugh anytime our grandparents traded caustic put-downs, which, the older they got, was often. Did they still even love each other? We didn’t think about that, we just thought that two old married people openly showing weary disgust was pretty funny.
It’s funny in Le Week-End as well, and made even more effective when balanced with the couple’s search for their long-lost romantic side.
Brits Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) are celebrating their wedding anniversary with a weekend in Paris, the site of their honeymoon 30 years earlier. The finances are nearly as empty as their nest, and their love life……well, it’s been awhile.
Most times, you’d be able to fill in the rest of the blanks: Paris! Romance! Sex! Love! Happy!
Instead, director Roger Mitchell (Notting Hill/Hyde Park on Hudson) and writer Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette/Venus) explore plenty of dark side, giving us a couple at a crossroads in life that feels real, often heartbreakingly so.
As Nick, Broadbent is his usual sublime self, effortlessly bringing to life the quiet desperation described so succinctly by Pink Floyd as “the English way.” Broadbent’s performance is both funny and poignant, never letting us forget that Nick’s desperation over his golden years is rooted in the fear of losing his wife.
No wonder, as Duncan is glorious. In her hands, Meg is playful, hateful, and still plenty sexy. Most of all, she is an intelligent, accomplished woman with a yearning that she’s not quite sure how to satisfy.
Kureishi’s smart, snappy script doesn’t take sides or provide easy answers. Though a scene-stealing performance from Jeff Goldblum as an old friend of Nick’s shows a glimpse of the film’s hand, we’re trusted to be party guests capable of our own conclusions about this couple, the human condition, and our own lives.
One or two convenient plot turns aside, Le Week-End is a treat that, while frequently sobering, remains ultimately inspiring.