Mad Maud decided we should all watch this. They were cleaning the carpets so we were all stuck in the TV room, the only escape being into the moonlit snowy garden – and no-one was going to do that. So, there we sat, expecting a faintly twee romantic comedy of an old couple wandering Paris in search of their honeymoon and memories. Le Week-end.
Boy, was this cold at heart.
Lindsay Duncan (Meg) and Jim Broadbent (Nick) had bounced cheerily around in the trailer. A lie! A mighty lie! This film is the story of a psychologically dependent, old and twisted husk of a marriage wrestling itself to the floor in spiteful shrieks. He is needy and scared; she is resistant and cruel. He is ordered and peacemaking; she is spiky, bored and troublesome. Their relationship, like every other part of the film, is excruciating.
It’s good, don’t get me wrong. Duncan and Broadbent are beautiful and brilliant. Their skill at conveying complex characters, loving and hating by turn, is remarkable. Even Mad Maud with her penchant for am-dram had to admit this was the work of experts.
But – jeez. The script. Every third scene it encapsulates the characters or the ghastliness of what ancient love has done to them in starkly unnatural one-liners: he never expected to be so mediocre; she is attractive: hot and cold; he only ever wanted her, sex with a stab at love was the only way for him. All bang on the nose and at its sharpest when Nick speechifies to his old friend Jeff Goldblum’s table of admirers. It’s more than a bit much and screams “this is a written thing!” more than a film should.
Mad Maud cooed over Broadbent and Goldblum and loudly hated the astringency of Duncan’s character. I guess she was right to – old Jack certainly flinched at Meg’s cruelty and agitation. But I was more irritated by how uncomfortable the film made me feel.
The central couple – rather than retiring to sensible corners – spiral through the film in a battle of petulance. That Le Week-end ends – and I don’t expect you to watch it and endure the pain so here goes – with them asking Goldblum for help in a café they’re too scared to run from, then dance together like life is nothing else, is a confused and oddly wretched way to finish the story.
Mad Maud and the others watched to the end of the credits. Old Jack braved ten minutes in the snow. I watched my breath in the moonlight and missed my dear wife. We rowed, but kindly.
I went back to my room and lit a candle for her.