Holidays offer up such ravishing opportunities for escapism. Like many seeking a sort of release from their lives of occupational drudgery, films for a very long time have managed to offer an escapist satisfaction by placing narratives in almost otherworldly and exotic locations. The alluring and enduring appeal of James Bond films, for quite a time, imbued the satisfaction of viewing Mr. Bond globetrot around the world; living a uniquely lavish lifestyle whilst fighting a diverse coterie of villains, saving the day and swishing around cocktails that are shaken, not stirred. Audrey Hepburn showcased a talent for lighting the screen with her impeccably curated looks and dainty form. Films such as “Roman Holiday” served to eschew the gravity of life’s doldrums for the levity of finding love in an unfamiliar city.
Alas this preamble makes way for “Le Week-End.” Roger Mitchell’s film, with a screenplay by the novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, which displays a no frills approach to the weekend getaway genre. While films such as “Roman Holiday,” “Last Chance Harvey,” “2 Days in Paris,” and Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy in their own right are wonderful character studies of human interaction, “Le Week-End” forgoes those nostalgic pleasantries. Following Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) on their wedding anniversary trip. Quickly, through their interaction with each other, we find that not all is well in this relationship. Things have become unremittingly strenuous for the itinerant couple.
Much like Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” a droll, eye-rolling effort at the thought of melancholy nostalgia, “Le Week-End” can be scathingly painful at times. Duncan as the emotionally frail, but outwardly dominant Meg is a stalwart; sexually sidelined, at times incorrigible though justifiably indignant. Her husband is quite different. Broadbent brings to Nick a rather vulnerable palette of psychological instability.
Eventually, Nick runs into one of his old colleagues, Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), on the streets of Paris. Limpid dialogue is exchanged between the two, as well as passing flirtatious remarks at Meg, and finally an invitation to a dinner party is extended by Morgan. What ensues in the latter scenes of “Le Week-End” is the film’s best tenuous outburst of frustration over a dinner party, where this breakdown occurs, tearing apart much the well curated and sophisticated academic hullabaloo.
What “Le Week-End” succeeds at is an almost novelistic quality of examination about relationships as they begin to wear out from age. Kureishi began writing pornography films in the 1970’s and ultimately settled into writing plays and novels. “Le Week-End” displays the same flair he shows in his books for incontinent characters and unconventional set-ups.
Almost post-colonial with its penchant for deconstructing a love story, Kureishi’s writing recalls the kind of hand wringing characteristics of J.M Coetzee’s novel “Disgrace.” In that, Coetzee illustrated the spiralling failure of professor David Lurie. Both Nick and David have aspirations to write one more comprehensive book (a magnum opus of creativity), but become stuck teaching courses to apathetic students and accused of horrible crimes which they may or may not have fulfilled. They’ve both reached a state of dilapidated emotional insecurity – circling the edges of satisfaction from the tedium their lives inspire.
Kureishi has expressed that creative writing process (specifically classes dedicated to them) is useless, either you have the skill to write or you don’t. That good writing is derived from a solid conviction to the craft. This might anger some frustrated writers, but in essence Kureishi extends to “Le Week-End” a similar and essentially more fatalistic ideology. Either you have love and are doomed to fall out of it or the love you have in the beginning of a relationship is the start of long road of exasperated vexation. That love is equally a craft that must be perfected as much as writing is to the writer. Quite aptly, the film adopts a note from Jean Luc-Godard’s “Band of Outsiders.” It’s an effective sort of grafting; taking a dance scene that was meant as a garrulous effort and promulgating it through a more futile context.
It’s conclusion is open to interpretation. Nick and Meg have hit upon an impasse. Meg is no longer attracted to Nick. Nick is no longer capable of providing satisfaction to Meg. Neither have any sort of attachment to their friends, but they dance as “Le Week-End” draws to a close. They are diametrically opposed to each other and inevitably drawn together out of a necessity. However, both of their countenances remain indifferent. Perhaps it is meant by both Mitchell and Kureishi to provide a more hopeful interpretation that this relationship is finally free from all disingenuous proclamations of tender bullshit. That they are free to love honestly without borders.
“Le Week-End” is not an easy stroll with these two distinctive characters who can be quite impenetrable at times. Much like Jean Luc-Godard’s other existentialist dark comedy “Weekend,” Mitchell’s film can be downright pessimistic. But however flawed both Nick and Meg may be, they can show a lot about how disastrous the silences in conversational lapses can be. How the brutality of prolonged exposure to one another when problematic issues go unaddressed can ultimately devastate relationships beyond reproach.