- Tom Cullen as Russell
- Chris New as Glen
A deeply arresting and genuine movie by writer/director Andrew Haigh about a chance encounter that segues into an unprepared, romantic connection between two men, Weekend is an intimate experience that reveals a personal and poignant story of finding what could be love in a short space of time.
In Nottingham, Russell is a relatively shy gay man who works as a lifeguard. While out of the closet, you get the feeling he’s not too comfortable with expressing his sexuality or embracing it. After a few drinks with his straight friends one Friday evening, he heads to a gay bar. Here he picks up Glen, who he takes back to his flat and they have sex. The next morning is when we learn more about both men. Glen is outgoing, assertive in his sexual preference and often defensive, whereas Russell has trouble really opening up and letting his guard down. Glen is doing an art project and recording the experiences he has with other men. At first, Russell feels very awkward at doing this but as talkative and commitment phobic Glen wins him over, the dynamic between them changes. What was expected to just be a bit of fun and mainly a one-night stand transforms into something very different for both of them over the weekend. Russell and Glen get more acquainted with each other as they meet up, do drugs, have sex and most importantly, forge something meaningful and not at all what either planned. Russell begins to remove the barriers he put up, while Glen struggles to come to terms with his longing for Russell that put at risk his phobia of commitment. As the connection grows and they both get more comfortable with each other, they have to contend with where this unexpected, romantic bond will go for both of them and what the future may hold as Glen will soon be leaving to live in America.
Andrew Haigh, who would later go on to direct the equally impressive 45 Years, really contributes a personal feeling to the film. As director and writer, his dialogue is so authentic and realistic that you often find yourself remembering that it is a film and not just watching two real people go through this. That’s the power of the film, you really get that intimacy and sincerity of real life through the journey of both men, figuring out what is next on the cards for them. Haigh discovers humour, pathos and romance in the gradual attraction of Russell and Glen, rounding out events with a real slice of life quality. The usage of natural lighting grounds everything in a realistic fashion, not needing any fancy edits or oodles of style to get to the point. Everything has a feeling of being a fly on the wall, which adds to the growing intimacy of the two men and the audience. Situations that are familiar to all of us; the first meaningful conversation, uneasy coming clean with buried angst and the connection of physical pleasure are all here in observant and clear-eyed fashion. Even the two main sex scenes, which while revealing and holding nothing back, have a depth as they showcase the changing dynamic of the relationship. In them, you can see these two people gaining acceptance and converging in a physical and mental way and finding solace and perhaps something else in each other’s arms . There are no big, melodramatic declarations of true love, overt tragedy or sappy ending to be found in Weekend, it is too perceptive and honest for that sort of thing. Instead, a sensitive bond that may be uncertain and unsteady yet loaded with unexpected connection forms between Russell and Glen, and is beautiful to observe. Now there are many that might label Weekend just a gay movie that only has limited appeal in terms of audience, but that does it a major disservice as it has things that will appeal to all walks of life. Topics of conversation may include aspects of defining homosexuality and prejudice, but the story itself has a far-reaching thematic value that is complimented by these insights. To be honest, the fear of getting close, awkwardness of realising attraction and confronting fears are the biggest points of the film that are observed with nuance and . I believe that anyone, no matter what your sexual orientation, will find something relatable and truthful in Weekend. It simply has a really intimate way of expressing itself through meaningful situations that seem real( as opposed to Hollywood gloss) and having a refreshing maturity and sincerity to them. And it doesn’t become pat or obvious in the long run either. As the title suggests, the film takes place within a short period of time. But that doesn’t mean that weekend is at all rushed. It favours the progressing approach that truly fleshes out both men and allows for souls to be bared and contemplate their feelings. Now if that sounds like the same old story that’s been done before, nothing could be further from the truth in Weekend. Sure are opposites who are attracted to each other, but it’s the almost documentary like execution of the piece that feels almost like a chamber work that lends a beautiful openness and emotional heft to it.
At the centre of it all are two marvellously engaging and natural performances from Tom Cullen and Chris New. Cullen possesses an affable but introverted manner that is perfectly used for Russell, who is often the more quiet of the two and not quite comfortable in his skin just yet. Complimenting this awkwardness is the bravado of Chris New, who lets us glimpse his characters reasoning for not wanting a relationship and how his show of brash attitude is something of a mask. Both performances are nuanced and organic, aiding the realistic tone of the movie and presenting two well-rounded individuals questioning things they never thought they’d have too. Plus, the burgeoning chemistry between the two is gradual and completely honest in every way. These two are simply sublime in a film that touches the soul and highlights how sometimes its easier to open up to a stranger than someone close.
A sensitive, heartfelt movie that boasts a naturalistic dialogue and unaffected, organic performances from the two leads, Weekend is a touching, perceptive and engaging film of two people finding an unexpected bond that will resonate with everyone for its universal messages and truths.