BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
Some of the best romantic movies are the ones that aren’t your typical romantic comedies, but are the ones that take a more bittersweet approach to these kinds of stories, offering a few rough patches in between the occasions of mirth. It’s not only much more realistic to life to craft love stories like this, but it’s also a lot more interesting to watch.
Director Roger Michell constructs a funny, dramatic, and genuine romance with “Le Week-End.” In it, he follows a relationship between a middle-aged husband and wife as they try to traverse the troubles that have been accumulating in their years together.
Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg Burrows (Lindsay Duncan) are a couple from Birmingham that decides to travel to Paris, where they originally honeymooned, to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. The trip, however, isn’t entirely about candle-lit dinners and sight-seeing; problems with home and family and the strains that come with a long marriage have taken a toll on their happiness, and because of that, there’s tension between the two. During their weekend, little events here and there, particularly a dinner party held by Nick’s friend, Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), will have the couple begin to reevaluate their relationship and future together.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are highly commendable as a husband and wife who go through different interactions consisting of playfulness, bickering and rediscovery, and their characters are both fairly different in their personalities. Broadbent is moving as a man who wants nothing more than the company of his wife. You see that he’s a tender and loving husband who just wants to have those feelings reciprocated, and is someone who still has a lot of love to give.
Duncan is wonderful in her portrayal of a somewhat detached wife who seems like she’s not attempting as hard as her husband to rekindle their spark. It’s there where you feel bad for Broadbent’s character, who is trying his hardest to reconnect. Meg can be difficult to please at times, which makes the audience desire as much as Nick to get through to her.
The screenplay by Hanif Kureishi is pretty minimalist when it comes to the amount of main and supporting characters in the film. Besides Goldblum’s character, who doesn’t come in until about halfway through the movie, Nick and Meg are really the only other two characters that the film focuses on. Until the climactic dinner-party scene, most of the film is restricted to just the two main characters, as a way to provide us with a more intimate connection with the couple as they attempt to strengthen their own intimacy.
What’s interesting about their relationship is how up-and-down it’s depicted in the film. Nick and Meg will have moments when they spar, and then moments when they express affection. It’s that unpredictability that has you question whether or not they will be able to keep their marriage going.
Thankfully, the film doesn’t only focus on the problems that Nick and Meg face. There are scenes peppered throughout the film that shed a light on the youthfulness and togetherness they still posses, such as a few romantic kisses they share on the lively Paris streets, as well as a fun and delightfully humorous scene in which the couple decides to dine and ditch.
Seeing as the film plays out in a relatively short timeframe, it calls to mind the romances that were depicted in the European vacations from Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, with each of those three movies taking place over the course of a day.
Director Roger Michell manages to keep us emotionally invested in this nugget of Nick and Meg’s marriage, especially because of the two leads’ superbly honest performances. It almost seems as though, at times, Michell is letting them improvise a few scenes, and it appears as such because of how well the two share the screen. Even if they aren’t improvising, it certainly feels like they are, and it’s all because of their unfaltering rapport that makes their interactions seem so natural.
“Le Week-End” isn’t just a getaway for its characters, but is also a getaway for audiences from conventional portraits of romantic relationships in film.
Final grade: A