Words by Denis Semchenko
You’ve seen the world change when you were young; even more so, you were the change. But does the new world have a place for you in it when you’re pushing 60? A beautifully shot Hanif Kureishi adaptation, Le Week-End attempts to answer the above question as it tracks a baby boomer couple on a Paris honeymoon rehash.
Behind their respectable English facades, Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) are two different people. He’s a disillusioned, bumbling, anxiety-ridden philosophy lecturer at a second-rate Birmingham university who doubts his every move and counts every penny, while she — a public school biology teacher — is still vibrant despite her years and is tired of his dependency. Together since their 20s, they’re far from prosperity, saddled with a deadbeat son who won’t leave home, a sore lack of intimacy and growing insecurity.
Once the two arrive in Paris, Meg takes the reins, angrily ditching their matchbox-sized original honeymoon accommodation and getting them an Eiffel Tower-facing suite at a plush hotel despite her husband’s protestations. Deciding to let go of responsibilities, Nick and Meg explore the city’s landmarks, eat fancy food and drink fine wine until the money runs out – and keep arguing and questioning their lifelong commitment while they’re at it.
After clumsily pulling off a “great outdoors”, they run into Nick’s old Cambridge pal — high-flying media expert Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), alive and well and living in Paris with his pregnant young girlfriend. He invites Nick and Meg to a book launch dinner party at his swish apartment, where he introduces them to his successful, intellectual friends and tells Nick he “resolved” his midlife crisis by dumping his wife of many years and leaving New York for the charms of the old city on the Seine and a new love interest. Sensing Meg is about to give up on him, the besieged Nick decides to act.
If someone were to call this an “arthouse flick”, they’d have to agree it’s as good as arthouse gets – if anything, director Roger Mitchell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes) knows how to craft a visual experience. UK film veterans Broadbent and Duncan make for a delightful pairing as they bicker, brood and exude Dylanesque spirit; meanwhile, Goldblum breathes trademark weathered American cool. A feel-good enterprise with loads of cultural and historical references to savour, Le Week-End subtly sends home the truth more people should stumble upon in their lives: everything is going to start to work out right once you stop giving a damn. And like Midnight In Paris, it will make you want to roam the streets of the French capital until your back and legs start giving out.
Le Week-End (comedy, UK; running time: 89 mins) is out now.
Denis Semchenko is OffStreet’s former music editor. He is a writer, social media addict, vinyl enthusiast and serial muso. You can annoy Denis @gigarussian.