As the crisp dialog of writer director Andrew Haigh so succinctly puts it, "that first meeting is like a blank page, and you write on it with how you want to be perceived". Yep, there's plenty of truth in that statement, regardless of your sexual orientation, and indeed, the writing here is solid throughout, as are the performances of what essentially becomes a two person play with peripheral characters added. Both Tom Cullen and Chris New are so very natural in their performances as two gay men who hook up in a bar one night, spend much of the next morning talking deep topics, and then decide to meet again that night. Much is conveyed in this one weekend and one can say that one life was changed and with the second... well, there's always hope.
While gay topics are discussed here (and a warning, there are gay "situations" shown, so if you're homophobic... well, I doubt that you'd be seeing this film to begin with (though what it has to say about human desire and that nasty four letter word "love" makes this a worthwhile view in spite of being couched in gayness).
The questions asked in the film and its almost poetic story arc are deep and sincere, and while I give Haigh the writer full marks, while Haigh the director, well, not so much in spite of creating an environment where the camera often seems to be a fly on the wall, simply a witness to what happens. Haigh nicely shoots around and through things - for example shooting between two bodies in a bar as we listen in to a conversation; or the climatic scene where the camera is behind a chain link fence (adding a feeling, not only of realism, but of the characters being, for lack of a better term: trapped). These scenes show a deft artfulness which makes the terrible editing all the more jarring. No dissolves or fades, just quick cut from scene to scene. This could be budgetary, but could just as likely have been a "creative" choice to appear "artsy" - in any event, it's jarring and plain and simple takes you right out of "being there" within the film. The same holds true for the sound track - while being uber natural, it came as a big distraction that much of the words during an important scene were buried beneath the crinkle of a candy bar wrapper. Similarly there is another scene where the script is rendered all but unintelligible by the fact that New is speaking while his face and mouth are partially buried in a pillow - making for a nice visual, but losing the import of the words is not a fair trade off.
However, Haight does an admirable job of letting you feel what Cullen is going through; an orphan who, in spite of having straight friends, feels out of step with the world around him, and oft times painfully alone. That he opens himself to New is deftly handled - and the wonder and fear of love, with all of its possibilities is on raw display and therefore a worthwhile view.
It's not often that I see a "gay themed" film that I feel is really well done and doesn't rely on stereotypes and cliches to try and make audiences feel "connected".
This (very intimate) look into a very intense (albeit) brief romance and how a few raw, honest hours can effect a person more deeply then years of the shallow inane and often insincere interactions that we have all come to accept (for the most part) as the status quo.
As good as the writing and directing are...it's the two lead actors that really make this film work. Tom Cullen (Russell) in particular, gives an amazing performance. I dare you not to fall in love with this guy.
Slowly but surely in the morning, as the drunken haze departs, they realize that they really like each other. A dinner that evening confirms it. They stay up nearly all night, talking non-stop.
Actors Tom Cullen and Chris New are so real that at times you think you're watching a documentary. Anyone who has ever had a one-night stand will recognize the odd mixture of intimacy and remoteness on the morning after that Cullen and New bring to life so perfectly. It's also beautiful to watch the gradual blossoming of feelings of love.
Because of a plot detail that I won't reveal, the fledgling relationship runs into a massive challenge right away. Watching characters deal with this is captivating, especially given the fact that the script is so fine and so true to life.
Writer/director Andrew Haigh, heretofore a complete unknown, pulls off some kind of miracle and creates one of the most beautiful stories of troubled love that I really have ever seen. Gay men will be especially taken up by the story, and the film is certain to become something of a gay classic. But anyone who cares about the human heart will be moved by "Weekend."
It would be fascinating to have a roundtable discussion after a screening of "Weekend" to hear from straight men, lesbians and others about the aspects of themselves that they saw in the story. I would especially like to hear from straight men about what they felt was behind the resistance to relationships shown by Chris New's character.
"Weekend" continues the remarkable winning streak that we've had with art-house releases in 2011, especially from new filmmakers. Thank heavens for indie filmmakers; they have rescued 2011.
More erotic than passionate, "Weekend" is pretty much a two-hander, so to speak, trying to explore the different ways straights and gays are perceived and how this affects their lives. While there are some intelligent thoughts here centered around how everybody should live their lives openly, actions such as public displays of affection have to be sincere, regardless. In any case, I do believe the technical term for anybody who brags about his sex life is an asshole. For example, at first I thought Russell might be uncomfortable in his own skin but after he turns the tables on Glen, I realized he is probably just reserved and there is nothing wrong with that. For the record, I have been in a hotel alone in Portland, Oregon and was not at all miserable. And friends are a blessing but cliques are not. So maybe, the sign "Way Out" framed at the end does not mean the same thing it did in "The Prisoner."
There is something here for everyone - gay or straight.