Weekend (2011) (Not Rated)
Andrew Haigh's "Weekend", not to be confused with the Jean-Luc Godard film of the same name, is one of the most innovative movies in recent years. Not by any stretch of filmmaking in its more technical sense is "Weekend" beyond its cohorts, but it's because Haigh relishes in the simplicity of his story. He never seeks to push the gay agenda and he never forces opinions down his throat and for that, "Weekend" appears to have almost the same magical caliber that "Before Sunrise" did.
It's a horrible movie, a beautiful movie, something so close to perfect that it literally makes me hurt. It's a nightmare and exceedingly heartbreaking, but it's also filled with moments of uncontainable joy.
Much like what its title would imply, "Weekend" takes place over a weekend, two days and some change.
Russell (Tom Cullen) is at his friends' house. They smoke some weed, drink some booze, and he goes home early, claiming that he has to get up for work. On the way back to his flat, he stops off at a gay bar and drinks some more. The way the film is edited suggests that he is there for a few more hours and we get the idea that he may not be that comfortable with sharing his "gay life" with his friends, even though he may be out to them.
At the bar, Russell makes eye contact with Glen (Chris New) and tries to pursue him; but things get in his way and he ends up making out with another guy.
The next morning, we are shown that he and Glen actually did manage to go home together and Russell, the more romantic appearing of the two, fixes them breakfast.
Glen pulls out a tape recorder and demands that Russell spill every secret of the previous night. What did he think of the sex? What did he not like of the sex? Was he insecure about his body? Did he not like Glen's body?
Russell is very uncomfortable with these questions but plays along with Glen, who claims that it is all for an "art project". And then after the tape recorder gets cut off, there is some sparse conversation about being gay and whatnot and then the two awkwardly shake hands in a hall way and they part ways.
This is more than your typical one-night stand though and Russell can't shake Glen off his mind so he texts him and suddenly the two meet up again. What Haigh manages to do almost perfectly is to unite the chemistry of Chris New and Tom Cullen, bottle that up, and serve it to his eager audience. These two are so good together (not to say that they constitute a "cute couple" because the movie is far more realistic than that) and nearly every scene contains them both, which is to say, the acting is almost unparalleled and it gives rise to the wonder of the indie flick.
It seems like there could be nothing better between these two until Glen decides to come clean: he's leaving at the end of the weekend for America and he won't be back for two years, if at all.
How do you deal with that knowledge, particularly when you're falling in love with someone?
The result is an often harsh, rough, uncompromisingly romantic, and bitterly sweet film that delves into all sorts of nuances that range from the heteronormativity of the media to the expression of affection to the social resignation of coming out of the closet.
For me one of the key moments in the film comes at the end of a highly intellectual, emotionally devastating, boozed and stoned conversation in which Russell brings up happiness. He wants a relationship in his life and he's wondering what Glen has against the prospect (the scene isn't played out as Russell asking Glen to be his boyfriend, in fact the conversation is mainly hypothetical...mainly) of having a boyfriend. Glen is a little hostile and asks Russell bluntly, "Are you happy?" The response: "I'm fine."
What "Weekend" manages to do is render the horrid notion of spending your life alone into something that glimpses the "perfection" of the heteronormative marriage. It's not surprise to know that Andrew Haigh would go on to develop the TV series "Looking" which focuses on a group of men searching desperately for love.
With "Weekend", which is not only beautifully shot and acted, but also filled with the same intense passion we see on screen, Haigh pulls this dreary realism into a light which is both unpleasant to see and impossible to tear your eyes away from.
The film goes by in the blink of an eye, and yet you may find yourself never wanting to see it again and not being able to stop thinking about it. It is poetic.
Maybe it lacks the puffy sentimentality that we would expect from a picture that carries such emotional weight; but it doesn't delve into such nonsenses and this is its strength. We all put on brave faces when we're hurting. We all smile and say "I'm fine" and yet that isn't the case. "Weekend" exposes that, but it doesn't have an answer, nor should it. It's primary interest is its story, and what a beautiful, tragic story it is.
Posted by Micah Jones