Le Week-End, directed by Roger Michell from a Hanif Kureishi script, is a small, perfectly formed triumph. It’s a triumph for what it doesn’t do as much as for what it does. It doesn’t bombard us with oh là là, as ageing marrieds Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent embark on a shot-in-the-arm, shot-of-the-children anniversary binge in Paris. It doesn’t do Franglais gags or culture-shock coups. It introduces, almost shyly, the dark notes of a disintegrating marriage with two disintegrating souls.
Everything Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine was cracked up to be but wasn’t – a psychodrama with depth and astringency – Le Week-End is, though it probably won’t get the cracking up. (Too quiet, too subtle.) It even has Woody-style invocations, though unlike Blue Jasmine’s smash and grab on A Streetcar Named Desire they waft in organically like bees to pollen. It is purely serendipitous, for instance, that Ms Duncan looks so startlingly like Julie Delpy: so like her that we goggle at Duncan and her sad cherubic hubby (Broadbent’s brand-recognition bluster here becoming the poignant tatters of a burst balloon), discerning some mad, post-menopausal homage to Richard Linklater’s Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy.
Midway in the plot, after delicate tone switches between comedy (escape from a can’t-pay restaurant) and tragedy (“You’ve picked our anniversary to dump me?” quails he), the couple attend a party thrown by an old Cambridge pal, a charmer-charlatan brilliantly played by Jeff Goldblum. The party catalyses their break-up as darkness thickens and talk deepens – come in, James Joyce’s The Dead – but then their relationship takes a new, transmuting turn.
The whole movie, beautifully judged, keeps surprising us. And not even Joyce created a young character-interloper as succinctly drawn and haunting as Goldblum’s son (Olly Alexander). A wry, fragile, renegade product of pushy parenting, he quietly intones his dissident wisdoms like the caterpillar on the Lewis Carroll mushroom, in a bedroom fortuitously strayed into by a wandering Broadbent.