Romance and excitement aren't just for teenagers and 20-somethings
If the success of films such as The Best Exotic Marigold, Hotel, Quartet, and Philomena have proven anything, it’s that there is certainly an audience for films with older ensembles. One that perhaps isn’t being fully served. Romance and excitement aren’t just for teenagers and 20-somethings, and even though Hollywood may be a young person’s game, there’s clearly a desire for movies with elderly protagonists, too.
Thus, we have Le Week-End, a charming and comedic drama about an older couple, Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan), who travel to Paris for the first time since their honeymoon. Managing to pack in what feels like a month’s worth of mishaps into the span of one weekend, they struggle to relate to the locals, an old friend they run into (played by Jeff Goldblum), and each other.
However, Le Week-End wisely avoids relying on the tired “aren’t-old-people-kooky?” tropes that some films of this type resort to. Nick and Meg aren’t presented as figures to laugh at, and even though they aren’t always likeable characters, their struggles and frustrations feel earned. Director Roger Michell seems more interested in exploring the intricacies of how people relate to each other rather than aiming for more standard cinematic moments of revelation.
Along those lines, I appreciated how unflinchingly the conflicts in Nick and Meg’s relationship are presented; their conversations frequently turn from charming banter to petty bickering with no apparent explanation, yet it feels natural. Nick and Meg say some truly horrible things to each other at times, but it’s understood that this is simply how the couple operate and that they can easily bounce back.
Much of this understanding is thanks to the nuanced performances from both Broadbent and Duncan. Broadbent has long been a beloved stalwart of British cinema, and his performance in Le Week-End is every bit as charming and befuddled as you’d expect. However, it’s Duncan who truly steals the movie. She’s an actress who has appeared in many films and television shows, but often in supporting roles (see: About Time, Alice in Wonderland, etc.), so it’s a treat to see her get a character she can really sink her teeth into. Meg is a fascinating and complex woman, and Duncan effortlessly portrays a woman who Nick is both endlessly exasperated by and hopelessly in love with.
All of this said, Le Week-End does suffer a bit due to its light tone. There is a weight to the central relationship, and the movie does wade into some surprisingly complicated emotional territory, but it still always seems like the movie is hedging its bets a touch; even at Nick and Meg’s most dire moments of conflict, it feels as though their reconciliation is inevitable. Early on, it’s established that these people need each other and are willing to overlook a lot in one another, so the moments of tension or temptation that come later seem more like temporary bumps in their relationship rather than foundation-shaking reverberations.
Luckily, though, the performances are good enough and there’s just enough honesty in the screenplay to make Le Week-End an overall success. The film’s portrayal of everyday conversations and emphasis on travel call to mind the Before series, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Nick and Meg as Jesse and Celine a couple of franchise installments down the line. And, as is the case with Linklater’s films, the viewer’s enjoyment doesn’t come from following the simplistic plot, but rather from watching a small slice of life play out. There are a couple of standout scenes – in particular, a dinner table monologue from Broadbent later on – that cut surprisingly deep with stark honesty.
This is a movie that wins by letting its characters be complicated and messy. It’s occasionally a touch too twee for its own good, but as the credits began to roll, I found myself surprised by how much of the film had left a quiet impact on me.