Here’s a 2013 British-French drama by Roger Michell, starring an excellent cast in the form of Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, and Jeff Goldblum.
Paris is also a major star in the film, which explores themes of ageing, long-term marriage, and exorcising the past. Innit.
Le Week-End (2013) and its Contemplations on Late-Life Struggles
In part, we’re reviewing the film now as we recently found out its director, Michell, unfortunately died on 22nd September 2021. He was 65.
By all accounts he was very well loved across film and his passing shocked the industry. So, this review is a bit of a tribute for him.
Back in 2013, it was Dr. Mark Kermode of the Church of Wittertainment who put us on to the film after a glowing review.
The plot of Le Week-End involves Nick and Meg Burrows, a married couple and university professors, travelling to Paris to celebrate their 30th anniversary.
It’s the trip they’d enjoyed on their honeymoon and want to relive the experience.
But upon arrival, it’s apparent their relationship is strained.
Nick (Jim Broadbent) views himself as a failure who could have had international success as an academic. He also reveals he’s been told to take early retirement.
Whilst Meg (Lyndsay Duncan) is content with her achievements, but unhappy in marriage and thinking of leaving Nick.
The reasons why become apparent on the trip. As they’ve aged together, their personalities no longer converge. This leads to old-married-couple bickering.
The cheap hotel Nick booked, for example, Meg finds inappropriate and she demands they book into an expensive five-star hotel.
Once their, Nick gets half drunk on miniatures and, whilst listening to rock music on his earphones, clearly exposes his regret over misspent younger years.
They also tour around Paris, which helps them to reflect on their lives without animosity and partially rekindle happy marriage memories.
Whilst contemplating these issues they’ve finally aired with each other, one night they bump into the successful writer Morgan (Jeff Goldblum).
He’s a former student of Nick’s and is delighted to see him.
But his seeming ease of success in life further frustrates the couple as they consider the stunted nature of their lives.
What follows is the Burrows socialising with Morgan in and around his Parisian flat. Although he’s pompous and shallow, he’s also charming, personable, and highly welcoming.
And clearly has a great fondness for the Burrows duo and Nick as his former professor.
But his ease with life continues to irk the married couple, which causes Meg to take youthfully hedonistic risks.
This includes dining at an expensive restaurant, realising the bill is too high, and doing a runner.
And during a dinner party with Morgan, who showers praise on the couple, they snap and have difficult revelations in front of the host and his guests.
Eventually, the Burrows leave the dinner party arm-in-arm as Morgan pleads for them to meet up again soon.
This section of Le Week-End (everything involving Morgan) is like they’re reconnecting with their youth and rebelling one final time.
As their dissatisfaction grows, they find their former carefree ways and avoid adult commitments, doing silly things normally reserved for people in their 20s.
This rears its head when they receive their enormous hotel bill at the end of the trip. They can’t afford to pay it.
And so they turn to Morgan for help, like teenagers asking their parents to fork out for some stupid thing they’ve done.
He meets them at a local café and lends a sympathetic ear and the likelihood of financial support.
They sit like scolded teenagers, whilst he’s the adult bringing cool, calm control to proceedings before they return to their normal familial commitments.
And, of course, the end of this one last fling of youthful hedonism. And the return of their adult responsibilities and whatever else late-life has to offer.
So, yes, Le Week-End is a great little film. We were 28 when we first saw it and enjoyed it a lot. It’s not something only older generations facing such issues will enjoy.
The intelligence of the script, if not outright sophistication of it, is matched by excellent performances all round.
Whilst bittersweet and tinged with dark humour, Le Week-End doesn’t shy away from contemplating important late-life issues and how to deal with them.
It handles its subject matter very well and in a way many viewers will no doubt be able to relate and sympathise with.
Kudos as well to Paris, which looks as fantabulous as always.
Le Week-End’s Production
Here’s Broadbent and Duncan (the latter won a Moët BIFA Best Actress Award for her performance) discussing their involvement in the project.
The idea for the film began in 2005 after a trip to Montmartre.
Hanif Kureishi wrote the screenplay. Here he is, with director Michell, discussing the making of the film in October 2013.
Off its small budget, the film was a relative hit earning back $2.2 million.
Le Week-End was also very well met by critics, on the whole, with Dr. Mark Kermode of the BBC praising the actors.
The film launched at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and has since made its way worldwide.
We believe you can now find it on Netflix, or any other streaming service where you can rent or buy the thing.