Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekend (2011)

Review #1,281






THE SCOOP
Director:  Andrew Haigh
Cast:  Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race
Plot:  After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club.  Just before closing time he picks up Glen, but what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.

Genre:  Drama / Romance
Awards:  -
Runtime:  97min
Rating:  R21 for homosexual content.
International Sales:  Bureau Film 

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Well, you know what it's like when you first sleep with someone you don't know?”

One of the emerging talents working in British cinema today, Andrew Haigh has made three features so far, including his breakthrough Weekend, and 45 Years (2015), his latest starring Charlotte Rampling in an Oscar-nominated performance. 

It’s interesting to know that Haigh first worked as an apprentice editor for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), before rising up the ranks to an assistant editor in films like Black Hawk Down (2001) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005).  His first feature Greek Pete (2009) was a disaster, the less said the better.  Weekend, however, placed Haigh firmly in the international spotlight for good reasons. 

One of the most important works of the LGBT genre to come out in the early part of this decade, Weekend centres on two strangers Russell and Glen.  They meet in a gay club and subsequently have a one-night stand.  What seems like a stereotypical depiction of the first meeting of two gay men moves into a fresh direction that benefits from Haigh’s naturalistic style of filmmaking. 

Coming from the Richard Linklater school of modern natural realism, with Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) possibly having strong influences on how Weekend plays out narratively and stylistically, Haigh develops an intensity between the two characters that is effectively subdued, both having rather different personalities and perspectives, but share an undercurrent of affection for each other. 

Their conversations, sometimes held in long takes, have an air of spontaneity, with topics ranging from general views on society’s impressions of homosexuals, their own personal lives and secrets, and explicit sexual banter over desires and fetishes. 

The setting is the English Midlands, with apartments and surrounding parks.  In a recurring high shot, we look down from Russell's apartment onto a tiny grey path cutting through the town's greenery to see Glen walking away.  Each time we see that, the emotions are subtly different. 

Credit to the outstanding performances by Tom Cullen and Chris New, newcomers in the business, but they bring such honesty to their characters that it is difficult not to empathize with their shared human experience. 

And I think this is why Weekend triumphs many gay-themed movies today – it doesn't have an agenda; neither does it take sides or sensationalize anything.  It just wants to show us that anyone, everyone, is entitled to showing and receiving love and desire from one another. 

Verdict:  A ‘Before Sunrise’-esque gay drama shot with natural realism that brings genuine emotions of honesty, desire and affection to the fore.  

GRADE: A- 






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