The exciting new film Weekend, written, directed and edited by Andrew Haigh, has received resoundingly positive notices as it's made its way through the film-fest circuit. The movie, about a hook-up to end all hook-ups, finally lands in New York this Friday ahead of a roll-out in other markets.
I had the pleasure of seeing it a few weeks ago, and I haven't stopped thinking about it.
The set-up is simple—Russell (Tom Cullen) picks up Glen (Chris New) at a bar, they have sex and then they begin the awkward process of figuring out if they share anything more than a desire to get off together—a process complicated by the fact that Glen is hours away from moving to the U.S. to pursue his studies. It is, as I told Haigh during our chat (video above), a proper gay film in a sea of post-gay nonsense that pretends the world is fine with homosexuality and that being gay is no big deal anymore.
As I watched, I had a different impression 40 minutes in than I did by film's end; at first, I was left somewhat cold by the film's deeply contemplative vibe. It is so preoccupied with observing every aspect of its lead characters' interactions that it almost became plodding at points, although I never had even a minor quibble with its technical attributes. From the beginning, it's clear that Weekend is an impeccably made film, artfully but realistically shot and edited and featuring two absolutely astonishing performances. Yet I feared I would not like where it ended up, an emotion I eventually decided was to its credit; I was so deeply invested in Russell I think I was experiencing dread that Glen would leave me.
Beginning around the 40-minute point, things clicked and I stopped admiring the film from a distance and began loving it. So often films are judged "good" or "bad," but for me I think it's more useful to describe them as with or without heart. Weekend is not all heart (it's got a brain, too), but it was made with heart. It is unabashedly romantic minus the glamour, it is about love but also about sex, it accepts that gay men desire the pleasure of each other's company as well as the pleasure of each other's
bodies and it highlights the difficulty of the journey young gay men still face while ultimately illustrating that that journey is well worth making.
Reminiscent of the unbearable Before Sunrise and the experimental Together Alone, Weekend is a far better film than either of those comparisons, and probably far better than most others one could come up with.
Cullen's Russell is adorable in a relatable way and wonderfully inscrutable. Ostensibly simpler than the edgier Glen, Russell is nonetheless full of more surprises. Their core difference—and their core kinship—is perfectly captured by each man's urge to document his love life.
I personally found the drug use in the movie a bit off-putting because I'm Mr. Straight about that subject and found the depiction to be at once very deliberate and deceptively offhanded, as if it were supposed to be a footnote but was too prominent so felt more like a statement. I asked Haigh about it in our interview and appreciated his answer; I never felt like he was saying, "All gay men use lots of drugs," so much as I wondered whether the film was arguing that hard drug use among youngish people is so common it doesn't warrant a conversation—'Of course we'll do blow while fucking!'
But it didn't detract any from my experience with Weekend, a memorable addition to the gay canon and an obvious harbinger of long careers for Haigh, Cullen and New if there is any justice in the world.