Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/France, 2013. Film4, Free Range Films, Le Bureau. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. Cinematography by Nathalie Durand. Produced by Kevin Loader. Music by Jeremy Sams. Production Design by Emmanuelle Duplay. Costume Design by Natalie Ward. Film Editing by Kristina Hetherington. Toronto International Film Festival 2013.
Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are an aging couple running off to Paris to celebrate their anniversary. They’re disappointed in their choice of run-down hotel, so they immediately decamp and head to a luxury suite in a fashionable neighbourhood (expensive be damned), before spending the afternoon veering between vicious frustration over the failed aspects of their marriage (ambivalent desires for each other sexually, their son whom they still have to provide much support for) and indulging in the delightful camaraderie of their winsome personalities (including a shared pleasure for dining and ditching) that develops over the decades that a couple spends together. When they run into Broadbent’s old friend Jeff Goldblum and are invited to his home for dinner the next night, the accurately calibrated, small moments of friction and insecurity are pushed over the edge and result in a catharsis for both. Despite the fact that the climax takes the form of a public confession and risks veering into Richard Curtis territory, this intelligent, subtle film directed by Roger Michell displays all the pleasures we often get from Hanif Kureishi’s writing, a view into the lives of those usually marginalized by the cinema, and his tendency to upend expectations of narrative and character in gleefully rebellious but not irresponsible ways. Duncan and Broadbent are superb in bringing out the tender nuances of the experience, underplaying their most turgid scenes so well that the attempt to put forth the feeling of a saturating short story on a movie screen pays off in spades.