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Released in 2011 to mass critical acclaim, Weekend has been called the gay movie of the current generation; a low key, unassuming yet powerful drama which approaches homosexuality in an honest and realistic way. It’s a film already ingrained within gay culture and somewhat idolised, yet to call the movie gay cinema is somewhat limiting; whilst Weekend does make some interesting comments on homosexuality, treating its subject matter refreshingly frankly, it functions more as a tale of two people falling in love – this is primarily a story about relationships, built on solid performances and impressive direction. A poignant, somewhat tragic movie, Weekend has a lot to offer viewers gay or straight.
The plot begins with lonely lifeguard Russell (Tom Cullen) at a party with a group of straight mates. Heading home, he ducks into a local gay bar and ends up going home with outspoken artist Glen (Chris New). The two hit it off and spend the next few hours together before Glen reveals he’s America-bound come Sunday and won’t be back for at least two years. With just the weekend left for them, Russell and Glen find themselves emotionally exploring one another and discovering more about themselves, all the while waiting as the departure deadline of Sunday looms.
One of the most impressive elements of Weekend is the strength of the writing and direction. Essentially Weekend works like a two-man play with two characters talking in a room, yet the quality of the writing and Haigh’s confident direction makes sure audiences don’t lose interest. This is a movie which feels seamless, easy, yet keeping attention focused on essentially nothing but conversation is an extremely difficult task, and Haigh pulls it off wonderfully. The film looks great too – considering the movie is set amongst grey tower blocks in a corner of Nottingham, it’s visually striking, playing heavily on bright, white sunlight which gives the movie an ethereal atmosphere, almost like a summer, bright and beautiful but with a sense that soon everything has to end. Haigh pulls back on music too, filling his movie with natural sounds instead, with nothing to distract from the conversation of his cast. Crucially, this makes the movie feel more realistic, and more powerful too – with no manipulative strings telling audiences what to feel.
Haigh is refreshingly open in regards to homosexuality too; Weekend is an honest movie when it comes to sexuality and a lot of gay people will find something to relate to here, whether it be the alienation and loneliness some may find in straight circles, the struggles some have with kissing on a public street, or the apparent promiscuity of the scene, there’s really a lot going on here, as the two characters sit and discuss the various problems of homosexuality and more importantly, the perceptions of it. Crucially, the movie lacks the kind of black and white gay bashing found in programmes like Queer as Folk (from a different time yes, but the American version in particular now comes across as extremely broad; straight people are evil) – and instead focuses on more realistic issues of isolation and cultural quietness. Weekend is frank about drugs too, with no judgement, and honest in its depiction of sex – Glen throws Russell a towel post orgasm for example – there’s a matter-of-fact quality to the sex and drugs here with an open bluntness which really works.
Yet despite its refreshing take on homosexuality, Weekend is more about the relationship between the two leads. Both Cullen and New are fantastic here; newcomers to the screen, the two give stunning, layered performances and are definitely two actors to watch out for in future. New’s Glen is more open and out-there with his sexuality, more political about his views but with a staunch, anti-boyfriend policy which doesn’t quite convince. Cullen’s Russell is more introverted, coming across as sweet and lonely, and together, the two have great chemistry and are utterly likeable. The audience find themselves rooting for the two as a couple. The cocaine-induced sofa conversation towards the end of Act 2 is extremely powerful and showcases the impressive acting chops of the two leads. Both characters have separate arcs – Glen’s issues with boyfriends, Russell’s issues with sexuality, and arcs develop nicely towards the climax. The weekend window essentially pushes the characters to be more honest with each other and their frank conversations about life, relationships and sexuality are remarkable to watch. The film also explores the nature of one night stands and the awkwardness of having a conversation with someone you’ve been intimate with but don’t really know at all, in a way unseen in most other movies, and ultimately stands as a great statement on relationships. Weekend is a movie all about self-definition, with the idea that a relationship serves to teach a person about themselves by how they relate intimately with another. The ending of the movie, a realistic and self-aware twist on standard rom-com endings, is powerful and tragic, and there’s a sense that these characters will never be quite the same after their brief time together.
Weekend is probably the definitive gay movie of our generation, with a frank and open look at sexuality rarely seen on screen. But it’s more a well-directed and brilliantly acted look into relationships and so has something to offer everyone. An honest, low-key but highly intimate film, Weekend is definitely one to watch.
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