Rewatching Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011)

Adam Lowe

This is something like a review, but it’s not. The reason I say this is that my response here is largely an emotional one. Weekend, Andrew Haigh’s award-winning film, has little in the way of plot – the power of it lies in its elegant authenticity and the touching love affair at its heart.

I first saw Weekend on a press trip, when I was invited to a film festival screening with a bunch of heterosexual journalists from mainstream newspapers. I wasn’t even aware what the film I was about to see was about, and I was itching to get to the next part of the itinerary (hardcore drinking). Then the film started, and I was immediately enthralled.

Forget that it has two very handsome young men naked in much of it (which is reason enough to watch most things), this is one of the best British films in years. Less corny than the well received Pride (which I love too, but which unashamedly plays up to its mainstream audience), Weekend‘s scope is smaller and more personal. The journey it takes you on is more intense as a result.

The premise is simple: two men have a one night stand, and end up spending a beautiful weekend together, where very little occurs but lots happens.

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The portrayals of Russell and Glen are superb. Their chemistry is stunning. I was so absorbed in the tenderness of their performances that I forgot I was watching actors at all. This is one of the tricks of the film: its almost documentary realism and low-key cinematography doesn’t draw attention to itself. The setting, too, is rather simple: a tower block flat, a local sports centre, a nondescript bar or two. The focus is entirely on the two men played by Tom Cullen (Russell) and Chris New (Glen) – so that you really pay attention to every word and every gesture between them.

The narrative, though sparse, moves along primarily because of the dialogue. The only real development is the development of Russell and Tom’s love and their mutual discovery of each other’s personalities. That writer and director Andrew Haigh manages to maintain enough tension and interest through conversation alone is a testament to his craft as a storyteller. It’s also a testament to the acting ability of the leads, whose restrained, pitch-perfect intimacy makes the film so breathtaking.

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Importantly, as a late 20-something about to hit my 30s, Weekend is a film I can relate to. Many of us have had that weekend, or those few days, where you meet someone and have the most perfect time – but you know you can’t be together. In Weekend, Glen is moving to the USA by the end of the weekend, and so there’s a definite endpoint in sight for their time spent together. But they relish their moments together, as do we, knowing that soon it will end and that we’ll all be better for having shared this journey.

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About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.