US Release Date: 09-23-2011
Directed by: Andrew Haigh
- Tom Cullen, as
- Chris New, as
- Jonathan Race, as
- Laura Freeman as
Tom Cullen and Chris New in Weekend.
Last weekend I saw Drive and gave it 4 stars. This weekend I wholeheartedly do the same with Weekend. I can’t remember the last time I saw two such splendid (although completely different) movies on back-to-back Saturdays. September, 2011 is turning out to be a memorable month at the movies.
Weekend is just the second feature from writer/director Andrew Haigh, yet it is masterfully crafted. The script, acting, camera work and musical score combine to create an extremely cohesive slice-of-life character study.
One Friday in October Russell picks up Glen at a gay bar in London at the end of a long day of partying. They stumble drunkenly back to Russell’s place for some inebriated sex. The next morning what began as a one night stand starts to take on a deeper meaning. Russell and Glen spend an intense weekend together that neither of them will soon forget.
Weekend is essentially a two man show. Tom Cullen as Russell and Chris New as Glen give revelatory performances. They share their bodies and bare their souls. They challenge each other’s ideas about life, love and sex. Glen is defiantly gay; he frequents straight bars with his gay friends to get a reaction. Russell, on the other hand, never talks about his sexuality with his straight mates and isn’t comfortable with same-sex public displays of affection.
The style of the movie is incredibly personal. We, the audience, witness every intimate moment between these two men. The sex is graphic without being sensational. Glen makes audio recordings for an art project. They consist of the men he has sex with discussing their sex lives. Russell keeps a journal of coming-out stories of people he meets. He wasn’t raised by his parents and therefore never got the chance to come-out to them.
Certain aspects of Weekend mark it as clearly a foreign film. Russell and Glen drink like fish, chain-smoke marijuana and snort cocaine all Saturday night, yet both lead normal, productive lives. In a Hollywood movie the only people allowed to do drugs are corrupt dealers or pathetic addicts. Like life, Weekend is not that black and white.
The script leans more to the dramatic but has its share of humorous lines as well. When Glen tells Russell about coming-out to his mom when he was 16 he says, “I told her - Nature or Nurture it was her fault, so get over it!” Later Glen complains about how gays kowtow to the larger heterosexual society by editing their public behavior. “Ooh look out! Here come the straights! We mustn’t upset the straights!”
By the end of their weekend together both men have experienced personal growth and gained a deeper understanding of love itself. The ending is romantic, poignant and oh so bittersweet. Whatever you do don’t let this Weekend pass you by.
Tom Cullen and Chris New in Weekend.
I have been complaining for years that romantic films rarely show why two people fall in love. The usual routine is to show a cute meeting between two equally cute people. Often they have a little disagreement that leads to some sexual tension. We then see a montage of a series of sappy dates that often involve walking somewhere scenic, This cues the audience into the fact that the couple in question is now in love.
Weekend is likewise a highly romantic film but it shows a realistic relationship develop naturally and spontaneously. There are thankfully no montage scenes. We get to know Russell and Glen as they get to know each other. These are two gay men with two different outlooks on life.
Russell has a straight best friend whom he is out to. Russell is not totally comfortable being around him and his family. It is not that they care at all about his sexuality as it is he looks at the family and believes he can never have the same. That is until he finds in Glen someone who could possibly drag him completely out of the closet and help him have the kind of life he wants.
Russell is your classic introvert. He is as shy at work as he is with his straight friends. When he goes to a gay bar he does so alone. Glen is more than out. I like Patrick's description that, "Glen is defiantly gay." He dares you to question his sexuality. Russell and Glen are just what the other needs. Russell mellows Glen, while Glen gets Russell to be more confident about his sexuality.
The sex scenes are graphic and are really only there to make a point. Straight love stories have sometimes featured soft core porn scenes so why not a gay love story? The conversations Russell and Glen have are far more intimate and revealing than the sex. We discover who each man is. They talk of their past and hint at their dreams. They clearly have very serious feelings for each other but are at inconvenient times in their lives.
The movie is filmed almost as a documentary, with a camera following these two men around. It works to make for a realistic looking story, but it also suffers due to poor sound. Several scenes are completely inaudible. I had the volume turned way up the entire film, but was still lost in several scenes. The sound person should have been fired and the director should have re-shot a couple of scenes where the actors seem to mumble their words.
Patrick wrote that the ending is bittersweet, and I agree. It is the film's only cliche. How many movies end at a train station or airport? It is a good scene though as Glen finally shows emotion and Russell shows some public display of affection. It was only a weekend, but it's affects will last them a lifetime.
Photos © Copyright The Bureau (2011)