City of spark

A compelling, bittersweet look at a marriage in crisis during a Paris vacation

The honeymoon is older.

The honeymoon is older.

Le Week-End
Ends tonight, April 24.Starring Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent and Jeff Goldblum. Directed by Roger Michell. Pageant Theatre. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

Le Week-End is British, but key aspects of it are in love with France and with Paris in particular. And, more to the point, that love proves problematical for the film’s main characters, who are British, married and trying to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary with a weekend visit to Paris, the erstwhile site of their honeymoon.

With two fine veteran actors in the lead roles and a script by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid), director Roger Michell (Persuasion, Notting Hill, Changing Lanes) shapes the whole enterprise into a gently spiked mixture of melancholy comedy and half-farcical drama.

Meg Burrows (Lindsay Duncan) and her husband, Nick (Jim Broadbent), are both teachers getting near retirement. Their two sons are grown up but not exactly settled, and their marriage, like their careers, seems to be winding down. Both seem to see their weekend in Paris as a chance to rekindle some spark that they and their relationship have lost or perhaps misplaced.

But in the actual event, their return to the sites of youthful romance and freedom provokes bitter recognition as much as, or even more than, healing reminiscence. The hotels and restaurants that once seemed charming now seem dreary, and with an amusingly furious Meg leading the way, Mr. and Mrs. Burrows are soon getting themselves ensconced in accommodations and establishments that are way beyond their actual means.

Thirty years have changed a lot of things, of course, but it also develops that this feisty middle-aged couple remain deeply attached to the rebellious freedoms of the 1960s, and especially those portrayed in the French New Wave films of that era. Plus, those shared attachments that once brought them together now exacerbate whatever it is that threatens to drive them apart.

Everything has its complications, for better or worse, in Le Week-End. The story works its way to a satisfying finish, but the satisfactions and the finish itself are plainly only temporary. And whatever serio-comic wisdom the film can summon has a lot to do with embracing the transitory nature of lives that seem both charmed and cursed.

Duncan and Broadbent bring an earthy sort of resilience to their respective roles, with each providing a rough-edged credibility to the paradoxes of Kureishi’s script. And Jeff Goldblum does likewise in an exuberantly ironic turn as Morgan, a flamboyantly unctuous friend and colleague from Nick’s days at Cambridge.

Morgan, his young second wife, Eve (Judith Davis), and his teenage son Michael (Olly Alexander) all serve as particularly interesting foils for Nick and Meg. Allusions to the New Wave films of Jean-Luc Godard, including a re-enactment of the “Madison” scene from Band of Outsiders (1964), add further resonance and poignancy.