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Le Week-End

“It will make you fall in love all over again,” proclaims an idiotic and ill-chosen blurb on the poster for Le Week-End. That the poster also finds it necessary to provide a translation for that title—is anyone surprised to learn that it means “The Weekend”?—indicates that this distributor may need to hire a new marketing team. The one they have did no one any good with its handling of this smart, acerbic, and moving film by pitching it as a gay romp in Paree.

True, it was directed by Roger Michell, after all these years still best known for Notting Hill. But it was written by Hanif Kureishi, who has been mercilessly dissecting human nature since the 1980s (My Little Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid).

Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as Nick and Meg, whom we first see on the train from England to Paris. It’s their 30th anniversary, and Paris is where they spent their honeymoon, so a return trip seems in order. That the past is impossible to recapture is clear when the hotel where they stayed the last time, which seemed charming to them as newlyweds, is now merely a dump. And that this is a marriage where the magic has faded, perhaps never to be recaptured, is apparent even before that.

Still, don’t get the idea that this George and Martha Go to Montmartre. The marriage isn’t obviously hopeless or even beyond repair, to us or to Nick and Meg. These are people who have been fencing for more than 30 years, so they know where to aim, when to jab and when to pull back. Their emotions turn on a dime, or appear to: Horrible accusations come out of nowhere, dispersed a moment later by a remembered pleasantry. Locating the real emotions underneath what is said is what keeps you watching.

Kureishi and Michell, who have a long-time working relationship, conceived of the film during a trip to Paris, and shot it in the style of one of Jean-Luc Godard’s early features, taking advantage of Parisian settings (and tributing Uncle Jean a few times, including a reprise of the dance scene from Band of Outsiders). It’s lovely to look at and wonderful to listen to for its Franco-jazz score by Jeremy Sams. Some viewers, perhaps expecting the rom-com promised by that poster, find it bitter and bleak. I wonder that their lives can be so rosy as never to have experienced what Nick and Meg have: Most of the rest of us will recognize them.

Watch the trailer for Le Week-End

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