What’s it about?
Weekend proved to be one of last year’s festival circuit hits. The film, the second by Andrew Haigh, connected with audiences upon theatrical release to mark a breakout hit, bolstered by perhaps some over-generous reviews. It’s a film that feels entirely honourable and with something to say but fails as a work of cinema. What do I mean by this? Primarily it’s made up of conversations between two people and feels more akin to a poorly adapted stage play than a film. That isn’t to say the movie is a failure, far from it. The over use of handheld camera further compounds things. There’s captured intimacy between camera and subject and then there’s aesthetic limitation. Weekend feels more the latter.
Haigh’s main aim is to provide a springboard from the lazy gay stereotype (picking up random men in clubs – like straights never do that!) then deliver an unexpected and intermittently touching story about two men who mull over the possibility of a relationship. It’s like a tension in the air with it being teased out over a succession of scenes before they bravely confront it. Take it as tragedy they don’t if you want to, but it could be more to do with Glen (Chris New) being a figure Russell learns from – accepting himself and not being overly shy about being ‘out’. Surely this makes it more poignant than the rather standard romantic plot many seem to fawn over as if its unabashed fluff.
Russell and Glen are everyday, ordinary Joes (the film tackles head on the idea that ‘gay’ automatically means different.) One’s a lifeguard and the other an art student. There’s no screaming queen supporting characters, overly camp humour or hedonistic sexual encounters designed for voyeuristic purposes. Some might, indeed, find the film’s sex scene confrontational but it’s shot like a moment we’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of times before only it features two blokes.
Weekend isn’t all introspection and polemic. The dialogue can be very funny and poignant. During their last goodbye at Nottingham train station their open display of emotion leads Glen to quip that people will either applaud like they do in the movies or throw them under a train in disgust.
The attacking of certain conventions both in life and cinema do give it a pointed frisson. Glen clearly believes society isn’t fair (he’s dead right) and Russell would probably prefer to hide away from it all. This is Weekend at its strongest, beyond the romance. Political points well made spiked by comic asides.
How’s the picture and sound?
This is a low budget picture. The transfer is adequate and the sound, too.
Though DVD screener sent did not include extra features these are included for the release: Interview with Director and Cast, Interview with Director and Producer, Quinnford + Scout picture gallery with commentary, Weekend UK Premiere at LFF.
Weekend benefits from a very assured and rounded performance from Tom Cullen. Russell is a lonely soul and maybe his encounter with Glen, though not to be, will some how help understand himself better. He’s a shy and likeable character.
This is a quiet, focused work and the rather languid and unfussy set up is less an aesthetic choice and more probably to do with Haigh not having much money. Weekend isn’t quite the breezy romantic charmer you’d expect and limitations make the ‘adapted stage play’ feel hard to shake.
Cinema is more than just actors talking…
When’s it out?