Joshua Reviews Roger Mitchell’s Le Week-End [PIFF 2014 Review]

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No matter one’s age, love and romance are things that anyone and everyone deals with on a seemingly daily basis. Whether you’re a bachelor or a wife in the middle of a decades-long marriage, finding the one person one dreams of spending the rest of his or her life with is something that we all long to have happen, and then keeping that fire burning is something we all have to try our damnedest to do.

Such is the subject of the newest film from director Roger Mitchell, entitled Le Week-End. Starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, the film follows a long-married pair as they head off to Paris in the hopes of re-igniting that very fire that once burned between this formerly vital and vibrant romantic duo. Broadbent stars as Nick Burrows, a writer and college professor, who joins his wife Meg (Duncan in a bizarrely entrancing performance) as they return to Paris for the first time since their honeymoon, in an attempt to rebuild their relationship. However, when they arrive and almost instantaneously discover that this journey will more than likely fail, but follows is a beautifully engrossing and oddly charming meditation on love, loss, aging and regret in the body of a supremely understated romantic feature.

With a script from Hanif Kureishi, the film really thrives thanks to the top notch performances that adorn it. Broadbent and Duncan are absolutely superb here, both together and in their handful of moments apart. Together, their chemistry is real and palpable, allowing the viewer to really delve deep into this world where the end of this relationship is very much a possibility. There is a bittersweet feeling to the proceedings, a melancholic cloud hanging over this likely futile attempt to save a marriage. There is a genuine love between these two characters, and it is that undercurrent of real love and admiration that makes the falling apart so much more potent and heartbreaking. Singularly, the two are great. Broadbent is charming, quiet and immensely sweet, but also seemingly undriven and happy with his current lot in life. Duncan on the other hand tackles Meg with a bleak detachment from the relationship, all founded by this constant drive to find something new and vital in her life. The two still very much love one another, but are at a crossroads in their lives, and this trip is an attempt to make, and not break, that very relationship. Rounded out by a rarely better Jeff Goldblum as the clingy hanger on that is Nick’s fellow writer Morgan, a character made complete flesh and bone by Goldblum and his brazenly entrancing cadence and physicality, this cast is a top notch collection of great thespians working in a relatively intimate and raw environment.

Best known for films like Venus and Notting Hill (as well as 2012’s God-awful Hyde Park On Hudson), director Roger Mitchell is at the top of his game here, taking a decidedly more intimate route with this small romantic picture. Naturally photographed to really bring out the life of Paris, the film rarely ventures into aesthetic flights of fancy (save for a few solid moments of experimentation like a time lapse sequence near the end of the film), instead centering itself solely around the central relationship. An honest film and a film drenched in prickly dry comedy, the film really comes to life when the camera allows these performances to breath, getting some truly great human moments out of this cast of underrated character actors. A beautiful meditation on love and loss, Le Week-End is a great, deeply touching look at the issues found in relationships, mining this oft-discussed topic for some beautifully toned humor and some moments of real humanism. Save for a final scene that feels completely out of place and in many ways cheap, this is a solid romantic comedy that will hopefully find an audience after its festival run has concluded.