The unvarnished performances and intimate, unadorned camera work make Andrew Haige’s film Weekend one of the most touching and real romantic stories captured on the screen this year. Describing to friends the simple premise of two men spending the entire weekend together after a causal hook-up betrays the depth Haige plumbs into relationships, loneliness, identity, and sexuality. Yet, in this simple story, the two main characters played by Chris New and Tom Cullen transfix the audience and each other with bold, truthful, and electrifying performances.
Weekend was written, directed, and edited by Andrew Haige and feels deeply personal. This type of love story has not often been explored on film and even the characters remark on it, especially Glenn (Chris New) who rails against the relentless, pervasive, heterosexual images in media. Yet, Weekend is about more than scoring a point for homosexual audiences. The concerns of the story focus on the broader concerns to trying to be who you are and finding someone to accept you.
The opening scenes of Weekend, brilliantly establish character relying more on camera movement than dialogue. We meet Russell (Tom Cullen) on his way to a party with friends. The camera starts off distant, showing his isolation in his cramped flat in a council estate outside of London. Once he arrives at the party, the camera trains on him, showing his peculiar stillness and silence as friends jubilantly enjoy the evening. The loneliness we observed in beginning scenes is a trait that follows him wherever he goes. Russell’s closest friend Jamie senses something is wrong, but Russell has become too adept at evading his friend. Russell leaves the party to go to a gay club. He looks even more uncomfortable being pawed by a stranger, while failing to catch the eye of a more appealing man.
The next morning, we see Russell back in his flat making coffee for two. Haige builds tension in this simple scene, holding the reveal of Russell’s liaison. When the camera pans to Glenn, my hearts skipped a beat for Russell- he got the guy he wanted after all. If Russell is shy, quiet, and almost hiding his sexuality; Glenn is out and proud. Eager to agitate shy Russell, Glenn whips out a tape recorder and instructs Russell to narrate the events of last night while Glenn fires pointed questions about his feelings and desires. As Russell watches Glenn leave his apartment, we can feel something has shifted in him.
Thankfully, Russell and Glenn don’t stay apart for long. The rest of the film shows their successive hook-ups and conversations, each increasing in intensity because Glenn will be leaving for Portland, Oregon for two years, maybe indefinitely. Through these scenes it became clearer that Glenn and Russell were not two stereotypes of gay life- the quiet semi-closeted man and the gay crusader- but two responses to the same loneliness. Both men have grown accustomed to not being truly seen by others, even those closest to them. No one challenges them or goes that extra step to show care. With each other, their walls forcefully break down and each man is pushed in directions he never considered before this weekend. We see and feel that change in the beautiful and powerful final scenes. The theme of being seen for who you are extends beyond the arc of the characters to the relationship of the film and the audience. We in the seats, gay or straight, have to consider if we truly see these men and their relationship as they deserve to be seen: as natural and human.