The sparks dissipate in this Weekend


on August 24, 2011 by Kate Erbland

weekendreview.pngMulti-hyphenate Andrew Haigh's Weekend focuses squarely on that titular time period shared between Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two young men still navigating what their sexual orientation means in the context of sparking intimate relationships. Though the film benefits from an easy chemistry between the leads, it never hits any of the highs hinted at early on, leaving audiences unfulfilled by the possibility of what might have been. The sexual honesty of the film, however, should garner some affection from Generation X and Y audiences looking for a more realistic and gritty take on modern romance. It will likely draw a small group, but positive buzz from festivals aren't likely to catapult it to the top of the limited release heap.

The film opens with Russell readying himself for a night with friends, but his insistence on getting high alone before hitting the house party and his subsequent tardiness show how little he truly cares about fitting in with his usual crowd. Haigh doesn't let that hint at Russell's character dangle though, using the first moments of the film to train the camera squarely on him, pulling him into focus while everyone else simply fades out. After muddling through the party, barely cracking a smile, Russell slinks out and finds himself alone at a gay bar. The film pushes Russell as "different" but Weekend is open to more than the predictable possibilitiesand Russell is too, waking up the next morning to find the brash and funny Glen in his bed.

The two open their Saturday morning with an easy chemistry that glosses over the inherent awkwardness of waking up next to someone who is, despite whatever physical acts you may have committed with them, basically a stranger. As the skittish Russell settles back into bed Glen whips out a tape recorder and tells Russell of an "art project" he's attempting, one that involves Glen's conquests to tell the tape recorder the tale of what has recently transpired between the men. It is, unfortunately, only the first of many cheap conceits that Weekend breaks out in an attempt to gussy up the film's storytelling momentum.

The film does attempt to illuminate the struggles of both men (and, on a wider and more shallow scale, those of homosexuals everywhere) in coming to grips with how their sexuality defines them. While Glen appears to be comfortable with himself and his sexuality, he gradually reveals to Russell that may not be entirely true. Russell's struggles appear and remain internal; unlike Glen, he's never had parents to come out to, and his best friend Jamie proves his understanding and support to almost outrageous levels. Russell confesses to being uncomfortable the moment he comes in to contact with other people, which makes it bizarre when he confesses to his own art project of sorts, one that reveals that Glen's initial thoughts on Russell's experience level are wildly off-base.

Russell and Glen spend a fitful weekend together, with both revealing personal details over time, ostensibly crafting a tenuous intimacy, but one that never sees expansion beyond their first morning. Whereas Russell and Glen's first daylight moments together feel genuine and unique, that intimacy and chemistry simply never deepens, even while all the onscreen clues attempt such. Russell and Glen share stories and drinks and kisses and line after line of needless cocaine, but the film's aimto show how one weekend together can change the two men foreverdoesn't hold. No one walks away from Weekend feeling any different, neither the audience nor the leads.

The film was made on a shoestring budget over a period of just 16 days and with a tiny crew of 15 people. Haigh chose to shoot the film in story order, which only makes the lack of progression and growth that much more disappointing. While Cullen and New are able to hold attention, particularly when the two men move into more bold sexual interactions in between their stabs at anecdotal and conversational intimacy, Weekend as a whole still feels monotonous and unsatisfying. While there should be consequences and weight to Russell and Glen's story, Weekend is as fleeting and important as an ill-advised one night stand.

Distributor: IFC/Sundance Selects
Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New
Director/Screenwriter: Andrew Haigh
Producers: Tristan Goligher
Genre: Drama
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: September 23 NY, September 30 Ltd Exp.

Like this review? Follow Kate Erbland on Twitter: @kerbland

Tags: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Andrew Haigh, Tristan Goligher

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  • BEATRIZ PARGA on 16 October 2011

    Kate, I think you’re wrong with this film. I walked away with a grounded affirmation of what a gay man struggles with when confronted with his issues with public affection (that says more about society than the character). Along the beginning of this film I too thought it could have gone a bit more complex with family issues and sexuality perception of our society that said...
    Of the film: I found his tardiness not that he doesn’t care so much has he feels unworthy. Much of the film finds lightness in a heavy framework, such as Russell’s own growth.
    The “outrageous” example you gave of Russell’s friend (Jaime) was not so much outrageous as it was on point. I believe given the opportunity most close friends would do the same…the point references most romantic films (girl finds guy, guy loses girl, girl finds guy…or something). The point being that at the end of the film he finds comfort in kissing a man he barely knows but knows he loves. The moment spent on the platform was the journey reflected.
    I think the film is driven to speak about how comfortable we are as a society to allow progression to occur.
    Ask yourself do you awe when two young men embrace the way most awe when two young heterosexuals embrace.
    I thought of the film, how sweet when Russell touched Glen’s face in bed and looks down, or when Glen nervously invites Russell to a party after spending the night with him and disclosing he would be leaving to another country for a 2 year span.

    I found this film important for anyone who has a gay male friend, a gay son, a gay brother or neighbor. I found this film important for anyone who believes him or herself tolerant or progressive. Weekend reminds us that things are not as we would like them to be. Think of it as a measure and I challenge you to see this again with the same sentiment.

  • emjayay on 22 December 2011

    Well I walked away from this film different, and it seems to me the characters definitely did too. Maybe it's the British version of a sort of mumblecore style, maybe it's the not quite explicit gay sex, maybe it's the casual drug use, maybe it's all those and more, but the reviewer was put off by something. Too bad. If this is your kind of thing, by all means see it. It seems like you'll have to wait a few months for the DVD to come out however.

What do you think?