Le Week-End

Le Week-End

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The changing face of love in long-term relationships has already been given an airing this year courtesy of Richard Linklater's Before Midnight and comparisons are inevitably going to be drawn between that and the latest collaboration between Hanif Kureishi and Roger Michell.

In fact, the writer and the director of Le Week-End seemed already sick of hearing the suggestion by the time the film reached San Sebastian Film Festival. Kureishi simply said that he had never seen any of the Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke films before waspishly declaring: "I thought more of this film as a sort of Woody Allen film but with jokes."

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Inevitably, because of the cross-over of subject matter not to mention their welcome representation of strong female characters, there are some parallels - although Lindsay Duncan's Meg and Jim Broadbent's Nick are facing considerably more of an immediate crisis than Delpy and Hawke's Celine and Jessie. Meg and Nick are not so much trying to recapture the romance as remember what it felt like and, feeling as though a little piece of it at least may have been left in Paris, return to the City Of Light.

If their memory of France's capital is one of youthful idealism, the nouvelle has gone from their vague. Now Meg is sick of her teaching job and Nick is facing an altogether more forced consideration of his work position as a philosophy lecturer. The trip, of course, exposes the cracks in their relationship but also shines a light on a surprising amount of glue that holds them together. Kureishi's script has a brisk rat-a-tat - although sometimes it seems too mannered to be real, the constant barrage of sharp exchanges taking on a theatrical edge. This isn't helped by the three-day timescale. Where it was possible to believe that a couple might manage to sustain banter and an indulge in a lengthy, almighty row across a few hours in Before Midnight, it's less credible that they would continue on for days, as they do here, without simply retreating into a stony silence.

The laugh quotient, however, is decent, if rather on the bitter side, and the addition of American writer Morgan (played with an OTT joie de vivre by Jeff Goldblum) is a sharp manoeuvre. Morgan's success may represent much of what Nick hoped for but didn't achieve but his shaky personal life also shows Nick and Meg they might have going for them than they realise. Whenever the screenplay threatens to sag, the cast's commitment acts as a spur. Broadbent has already won an acting prize at San Sebastian for his hangdog portrayal of Nick, his quiet desperation in contrast to Meg's more prickly self-doubt. Duncan could easily win prizes in the coming months and I've no doubt that her co-star will feel she deserves an equal share in his accolade, as this is as much, if not more, her film than his. Although she may sometimes seem unlikeable, Kureishi makes Meg complex and represents her as desired, for all her faults, not just by her husband but by other men in her orbit.

In the directing department, Michell keeps things moving and makes good use of the repeated metaphors of endless spiral staircases which could very well lead nowhere and attempts at quick getaways that turn out to be anything but. Likely to strike the strongest chord with couples who understand there's a double meaning to enduring love.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2013
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A couple take a make or break trip to Paris.
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