Le Week-End wrong footed many cinemagoers who believed, upon seeing the cast list and the foreign setting, that they were in for another jolly 'Grey Pound' jaunt like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and to some extent, Quartet and A Song For Marion. But, like those payday loan adverts, they really ought to have read the small print; in this case, the team behind this film because this is a Hanif Kureishi and Roger Michell film, and its one that is indicative of their current creative stance and mindset.
Kureishi (scriptwriter) & Michell (director)
Le Week-End is another chapter in their ongoing story (with The Mother and Venus which could be said to form something of a trilogy on a theme) of how ageing and physical decay doesn't necessarily cancel out the desire to live or to yearn for pleasures sexual and otherwise, but it does seem to make such cravings poignant and life in general unsatisfactory.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as married couple Nick and Meg, a University lecturer and secondary school teacher, who are ostensibly returning to Paris for their anniversary but may well be taking their marriage there to die. Both seem discontented with their lot and hopeful for some chance spontaneity or spark whilst they are away to reignite their lives once and for all. Meg is a brittle and emotionally unpredictable woman whose beauty may be diminishing but is still apparent. This poses a problem for Nick, a depressed man who is becoming aware that he has never truly fulfilled his potential. He's also incredibly faithful, but deeply needy; he cannot abide the thought of being alone - to the extent that he considers inviting their grown up child and his family back to the nest - and all but begs for his wife's interest sexually which only further serves to madden her and cause her to ultimately, routinely block his advances. It's clear that they can find one another infuriating, but this isn't Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf; this couple have a polite, albeit paper thin mask which they habitually wear (even, one suspects, to one another when in their natural surroundings back home) To paraphrase Pink Floyd, they are 'hanging on in quiet desperation', it is after all 'The English Way'. But nothing is so one note here; they may find one another infuriating and there is tight lipped emotional savagery throughout, but it is just as clear that they still care for one another and that is evident in the film's occasional glimpses of hope and the sense that, Kureishi and Michell's message is that love and marriage isn't perfect, it's a compromise that has to be worked at - even more so after 30 years and decades of disappointment both personally and professionally.
A pleasing and lugubrious melancholy hangs over Le Week-End at an almost ironical parallel to the romantic visuals of Paris, 'the city of love' and the Godard-esque touches. It's droll, prickly and downbeat and a little unpredictable and Duncan and Broadbent are perfect. It may not be the best thing Kureishi or Michell has ever done, but why it was ignored across the board at the Baftas is beyond me.
A bittersweet ode to the baby boomer generation, as the credits roll, the aching beauty of Nick Drake's Pink Moon is the perfect note to end on.