Meg and Nick (Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent), a sixtyish British married couple, have gone to Paris to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary. Upon arriving at the Montmarte hotel they recalled from a previous visit, Meg dubs it entirely unsuitable; "It's . . . beige," she spits, and Nick, not horrified at all but wanting to oblige his wife, muses that "there's a certain light-brown-ness about it." One expensive cab ride later, they're at a far more expensive, and expansive, hotel, in the fanciest suite, with the Eiffel Tower right out the window.
In Le Week-End, director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) and writer Hanif Kureishi (who teamed up with Michell for the 2006 Peter O'Toole vehicle Venus) explore what happens when you arrive at the inflection point between two phases of life, and aren't sure you're in the right place. Or that you've arrived there with the right person. What do you do, in other words, if you get to where you were going, and realize there's a "certain light-brown-ness" about it?
I've read a lot of articles about how we millennials are discovering, as we reach young adulthood, that we're not as special as our parents and teachers have always told us. Most of us, it turns out, are just profoundly ordinary people. We'll marry other ordinary people, live in ordinary house, have ordinary jobs and ordinary children and conventional white picket fences. (The resulting quarterlife crisis is well chronicled in the HBO show Girls.)
And yet still we crave newness and hate the idea of commitment, so we drift around carelessly from job to job, partner to partner, city to city, church to church. We're unmoored, allergic to limits, and we like it that way.
If the pundits are to be believed, this is just another example of How Entitled The Young Folk Are and How the Decline of Civilization As We Know It Is Imminent. But if Le Week-End is to be believed, this isn't just an affliction for the young. Le Week-End is about what it takes to stay married to someone for decades, about the nature of long-term intimate commitment, and about coming to terms with our limiting choices.
Nick and Meg, now ensconced in their nicer suite, are alone with one another for what seems like the first time in decades. They are new empty nesters. Over dinner, Nick reluctantly tells Meg some news he's been holding back: due to a run-in with a student, the college administration has forced him into early retirement. Meg's tired of her job. They're bored with their lives. And while Nick is hopelessly dependent upon and still very much infatuated with his still-beautiful wife ("A man who still wants to make love to his wife?" he jokes. "It's unusual, if not a far-out perversion"), Meg's not so sure she likes being shackled to him any longer.
But in Paris, anything is possible, a fact underlined when Nick and Meg (after a dine-and-dash adventure) run into Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), an old friend from their anarchic, activist student days who instantly invites them to a dinner party the next day. He's a successful writer of the most caricatured type: bestsellers, teenage son from another marriage, ostentatiously sophisticated flat ("what beautiful hell is this," Nick whispers on walking in), young, adoring, very pregnant French wife.