One can tell immediately from the trailer, which features married couple Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan off for a weekend trip to Paris, that this is going to be a reflective piece on the state of the protagonist’s marriage, probably interjected with sparse moments of comedy to lighten the mood, with the tensions of various unresolved issues rearing their ugly heads in order to tug at similar threads with as many audience members as possible, all before reaching some sort of cleansing and redemptive conclusion. This is exactly what is delivered, a formula which can work if done well – as in ‘Before Midnight’ for example, but here subtle errors make it difficult for the story to feel genuine, and ultimately it feels like the husband and wife, who are both well educated intellectuals perfectly capable of expressing themselves fluently, have barely ever had a conversation together.
Moreover, our sympathies are supposed to be equally divided between the two of them, but Lindsay’s character repeatedly comes across as a sort of caustic emotional corpse, with her to-ing and fro-ing between various states of half-life never really ringing true. The setting of Paris merely adds to the feeling of inherent pretension, and one can’t help but laugh when they climb the stairs of Sacré-Cœur, turn around to admire the view and exclaim ‘Who would want to live anywhere else?’ and the camera cuts to … a completely flat, overcast landscape. Really? They could surely have waited for a nicer day at least. I’m sure Paris has lots of lovely areas, but my overriding memory of the place is a heavily urbanised sprawl towered over by a great big rusty pylon. Indeed, the film is careful to only show the Eiffel Tower from a distance during the day. There are several irritations throughout the film as well – such as ‘a meal’ made of Broadbent’s character’s trait of eating with his mouth open, which is gross to say the least – but then we the audience are subjected to listening to it during more than one scene. PUKE!! With Jeff Goldblum popping up in support, and directed by Roger Mitchell. Who has at least improved on his last effort – ‘Hyde Park on Hudson‘.