All Good Things Must End
Director: TOM DOLBY, TOM WILLIAMS/2014
Last Weekend is the story of a highly wealthy wife and mother whose grown children have left home and moved away. Seeking to reconnect with her sons and to have one more idyllic weekend at their beautiful lake house before she secretly puts it on the market, she invites her family home.
Patricia Clarkson (Maze Runner, Shutter Island) plays Celia Green, the matriarch of the family. Celia is a highly insecure woman who plays it up with a stifling bravado that pushes her family away and holds her one son’s long-time girlfriend at arms length. Clarkson beautifully plays up the neurosis of Celia Green within the four walls of their family home, but shows different layers of her character as she also knows how to play to the whims of her elite socialite neighbors who are obsessed with bottled water, status, and being a part of trendy causes to assuage their elite guilt.
Chris Mulkey (Captain Phillips, First Blood), the consonant character actor, plays her husband, Malcolm Green, who is the silent husband who aloofly stands by as she acts as a human wrecking ball to the lives around her. He is also someone who is wiser and more proactive than he lets on. He truly understands his wife’s anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and gives her all the room she needs to vent and act out, stepping in when absolutely necessary.
Her two sons carry their own baggage as well. One son is gay and has brought a man with him that he is not really fond of but is there just to have a buffer between he and his mom. The other son has lost his job and is unwilling to let his family know this, so he acts as if all is fine but he is really have an identity crises and its affecting his relationship with his girlfriend, who has aspirations of a career, that he is not really supporting.
Throw in a meddling neighbor, who has had designs on buying the Green’s house for years, played wonderfully by Judith Light (Who’s the Boss), and you have a situation that will challenge every last nerve of Celia Green.
But despite each of these characters shortcomings, Last Weekend is really a picture of many of the themes that run through so many of our lives. Themes include insecurity, fear of failure, inadequacy, and questions of what kind of an impact we are truly having on the lives around us. Clarkson is able to capture each of these themes effectively in her character arc.
What is especially effective is a look at the question of whether one can truly say goodbye to the beloved chapters in their lives and strike out anew, looking for the next adventure in life. Empty nest syndrome is a big struggle for many, in that so much of one’s identity is bound in the life of the family they have created. Often, when the children leave, the parents no longer know who they are without their kids around. The tension that arises at future family gatherings is often brought about when the parents seek to settle back into their hierarchal roles that existed at one time without acknowledging the changing dynamics and growth that has taken place once the children leave the nest. Can we allow others to grow past us, and yet still find our identity in the new phase of life?
Last Weekend features a wonderfully competent, and fun cast. This is important given how dysfunctional the family and individuals we are watching truly are. But like many films of this ilk, the dysfunctions are simply a hyperbolic mirror reflecting what so many of us truly are, at some level. You will recognize something in their lives as having been present in your own.
So as the Greens seek to have one last memory in a place that meant so much to them as they grew up, we are invited to evaluate ourselves, reflect, and find a way to move forward. We can keep up appearances as Cecilia does with so many of her superficial neighbors, or we can truly begin to deal with our demons and see if we can come out more whole on the other side. All good things must end, as each thing in life has its season. But that doesn’t mean that something new cannot come from it.