‘Le Week-End’ scrutinizes the power of choice

“Le Week-End” (2013 production, 2014 release). Cast: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Judith Davis, Olly Alexander, Xavier De Guillebon. Director: Roger Michell. Screenplay: Hanif Kureishi. Web site. Trailer.

We all reach critical junctures in our lives, and those turning points nearly always require us to make some significant (and hard) choices. It’s a process that can become considerably more difficult if we tune out to it, be it intentionally or inadvertently, during the time leading up to those decisions. Such is the lot of a middle class English couple in the bittersweet romantic comedy-drama, “Le Week-End.”

To break the tedium of everyday life, Nick and Meg Burrows (Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan) decide to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a weekend in Paris, the site of their honeymoon 30 years earlier. But what should be a joyous occasion gets off to a rocky start. Considering the prevailing humdrum of their daily lives back in Birmingham, coupled with the prospect of less-than-satisfying vacation accommodations, they approach their weekend getaway with a decidedly sour attitude. So, given these disappointing circumstances, Meg springs into action. She’s convinced they deserve something better, and, in an act of impulsiveness, she takes off in search of more suitable lodging with a reluctant Nick in tow.

Not long thereafter, the couple throws caution to the wind and checks in to a lavish suite at an upscale hotel with a panoramic view of the City of Light. A simple change in venue thus works wonders to lift their spirits. But that’s just the beginning. Inspired by the uplifting effect afforded by these luxury accommodations, Nick and Meg begin contemplating the notion of pursuing a better life in general. Indeed, they surmise that life may have more to offer them than what they’ve settled for all these many years. And so, as their Parisian weekend plays out, husband and wife each begin to look at themselves and their lives together, wondering what the next chapter holds.

As they launch into this process, Nick and Meg are both conflicted about the future. While they clearly love one another, they also wonder whether they should stay together. Are they continuing their lives with each other out of a sense of genuine passion, or is it merely because of convenience, familiarity and obligation? They also face an array of challenges personally, professionally, financially and with regard to their relationship with their adult children. Now that they’ve reached a crucial turning point in their lives, how should they respond to these issues? And what impact will their responses have on their relationship with one another going forward?

While wending their way through Paris, Nick and Meg each assess their circumstances. Sometimes they’re hopeful about what lies ahead; sometimes they express regrets about what they’ve left behind; and sometimes they fret about what they might be giving up by pursuing uncertain change. Those musings get drawn into sharper focus upon a chance meeting with one of Nick’s old college friends, Morgan (Jeff Goldblum). Even though Nick and Morgan are contemporaries and shared a common past, they’ve each followed very different life paths. While both of them started out their lives the same way, Morgan one day impulsively decided to take a left turn and pursue other interests. His example thus provides even more food for thought for Nick and Meg to consider in making their respective decisions. The question is, of course, what will they each ultimately decide?

In evaluating their lives, Nick and Meg each ask themselves how they got to where they are, a process that’s more difficult than either of them first realizes. They initially try to chalk up their circumstances to such considerations as making sacrifices to meet the needs and expectations of the other. But, as the weekend unfolds, they gradually come to see that their respective situations are the result of their own individual choices. The onus of responsibility thus comes back to rest squarely on each of their shoulders, a realization that can be even more difficult for them to fathom, such as when they see where the true “fault” lies for circumstances not working out as hoped for. But this heightened awareness of the importance of individual choice and personal responsibility also makes it possible for Nick and Meg to realize that the potential for birthing beneficial change in their lives rests with each of them, too.

The key in this is to critically examine the beliefs and intents we employ in manifesting our circumstances. This is at the heart of the conscious creation process, the means by which we materialize the realities we each experience. And it’s that very process that Nick and Meg become acquainted with as they proceed with their weekend.

Nick, for instance, looks at his life and wonders how it became so settled. The one-time outspoken activist and rowdy party animal is now a philosophy professor living a middle class life who agonizes about such comparatively “ordinary” matters as paying bills and planning for retirement. “Where did that fun-loving rabble-rouser go?” he wonders. And can he get that part of himself back, or is he reconciled to a future burdened by mediocrity and perpetual worry? He’s especially concerned that he may face that prospect alone as well.

Meg, meanwhile, has lived a largely reserved life as a wife, mother and school teacher. Now that her children are raised, she wants to grow in her own ways, perhaps becoming an artist. She also contemplates exploring new romantic and sexual connections, given that her love life has mostly gone dormant (even though she played a significant role in evoking that dormancy, despite Nick’s amorous advances to the contrary). But, even with all these new possibilities running through her mind, she also can’t ignore the fact that she still loves her husband, even if some of his befuddling behavior frustrates her to no end on an almost-daily basis. What is she to do?

Morgan provides a model for each of them to emulate. The once-married former New Yorker chose to abandon his marriage, family and career to follow a different path. He later remarried, this time to a much younger woman, Eve (Judith Davis), and moved to Paris, where he revived his writing career and became involved with a stimulating circle of friends in the arts. He has no qualms about the choices he’s made, either, and, while some might view his actions as entirely self-serving, he sees them as eminently fulfilling. He obviously holds fast to a belief of “why stay trapped in bad circumstances when it’s possible to create more satisfying ones anew?” Morgan hasn’t been cold-hearted in making these new choices, either, as seen in his sincere attempts to maintain an ongoing connection with Michael (Olly Alexander), his son from his first marriage. Morgan’s experiences thus give Nick and Meg much to think about as they come to their own conclusions.

The primary challenge that Nick and Meg need to address is reconciling their seemingly conflicted outlooks. Is it realistically possible to be both devoted and independent at the same time, or must they choose one over the other? Many would likely view these diametrically opposed aspirations as inherently incompatible. But need they be? After all, look at Morgan’s example; he’s managed to strike a balance, and that option – like all the infinite manifestation options that conscious creation makes possible – is just as viable a probability as any of the other more limited choices available. Nick and Meg thus need to decide which options are best for each of them, and clearly there are more choices open to them than they might have considered at first glance.

Perhaps the most important consideration for Nick and Meg in all this is to connect (or, more precisely, to reconnect) with their sense of personal empowerment. It underlies all of the choices they make and all of the beliefs they formulate and embrace, the forces that drive the manifestation process. Somewhere along the line, however, they seem to have lost touch with this concept, allowing their everyday situations to consume their awareness of it. With the previous chapter in their life coming to an end, however, they must now come up with new creations to form the basis of their respective futures, a challenge that has brought them back in touch with a metaphysical principle they have long since forgotten. Indeed, just like the feisty 20-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) in “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), Nick and Meg are now tasked with reconnecting to their “muchness,” their sense of inner strength, personal power and self-worth, to make their lives more fulfilling as they move into the third act. Let’s hope that they, like all of us, choose wisely – before the curtain drops.

“Le Week-End” is a charming little film, presenting a “realistic” look at life and love as the years wear on. This bittersweet romantic comedy-drama doesn’t hesitate to raise some of the thorny questions that long-married couples face as they age, particularly at critical junctures like the one the protagonists have arrived at. Their story is effectively conveyed through the terrific performances of Broadbent and Duncan, with Goldblum providing an intriguing comedic counterpoint. Despite some occasional lapses into seemingly inexplicable dialogue tangents, the writing is generally spot-on, crisp and pointed, punctuated with poignant observations and witty one-liners reminiscent of the works of Woody Allen and the “Before…” trilogy of Richard Linklater. And, as with many other pictures in recent years, the film’s superb cinematography showcases Paris beautifully, much like “Midnight in Paris” (2011), “The Intouchables” (2012) and “Before Sunset” (2004), all backed by an engaging soundtrack.

As conscious creators are well aware, we are what we create, and that arises from what we believe. It’s incumbent on us, then, to choose our beliefs wisely. But, before we ever get to the point of making such choices, we must first be cognizant of the existence of this fundamental process and how it works, something that can be easy to lose sight of when life happens. Maintaining our awareness of these principles is essential to create lives of fulfillment – no matter what stage of life we’re in.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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