The English are never reluctant to make honest and endearing and romantic, and at moments bleak, films about old folks.
Recall the "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." It was filled with wit, wonderfully entertaining, framed by much that was an unapologetic fantasy. Which, in part, defines good comedy.
And now, in contrast, there is "Le Week-end" starring two of England's finest actors, Jim Broadbent as Nick Burrows and Lindsay Duncan portraying, Meg, his wife of 30 years.
In fact, it's their 30th anniversary and they've decided to take the train to Paris to hopefully recapture some of the magic (now elusive) they so fondly recall when they honeymooned in the City of Lights.
What they learn even before disembarking from the train is that you can't go home again. Paris remains essentially the same — as does the hotel where they once stayed. It is they who have changed. As a result, Meg refuses to stay in the room reserved because it has beige walls and abruptly leaves.
It soon becomes clear that the 30 years now passed have not only created a bond constructed of familiarity and habit, but has nurtured unspoken regret and resentment. And so they bicker, edged with venom, sitting side by side in bars and restaurants, Meg alluding to the possibility of splitting up and Nick, terrified of facing life alone, desperate to rekindle their still memorable, amorous moments.
This is not a film of charm and affection, or overriding humor evolving into laughter. Some might find it too close to life as is (a risk Hollywood is generally reluctant to take), unflinching in its candor. This is a film about two people looking for new reasons to reaffirm their bond, to live out their final years together, not as they lived their first decade or more, but struggling to take their history and transform it into something far more substantial and binding.
As it turns out, it is Meg who seems unconvinced that they should go forward as a couple. And it is Meg who is seduced by the idea that if she climbs out of her present life and into a new one — absent Nick — that she will find renewed fulfillment. It is an illusion that can prove irresistible. And it can be so attractive in the abstract as to blind an intelligent and academic person such as Meg to a far more important reality: There is all around her, despite the shroud of time of melancholy and regret (opportunities lost, roads not taken), hope and even possible redemption. But the pull of what might have been, of what could be in the years remaining, alone, can be all too powerful.
Ultimately, it is not a question of what might have been, but it is the ability to see clearly what is, which is life as it has evolved after 30 years of sharing two sons, two careers and two personalities so different and yet so much the same.
When Meg comments, sadly, that, "Love dies," Nick responds, "Only if you kill it" — while simultaneously acknowledging that it is possible to love and hate the same person within five minutes.
There is a wonderful and powerful scene at a dinner party, hosted by an old friend of Nick's, in which Nick gives a toast that is raw and honest and in which he acknowledges that his life has become completely unmoored. It is a sensitive, compelling soliloquy — completely unexpected — about one man's life, revealing, unabashedly, that he is in need of rescuing. The question is, will Meg understand what he is asking and will she discard the fantasist's narrative that has so captured her thinking and be the one to help Nick back to safe harbor? That bittersweet question is not answered in "Le Week-end." But it is explored. And that exploration makes for a fine piece of filmmaking (and writing) with two superb performances by Broadbent and Duncan.