One-night stand that also lingers
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Oct 07, 2011
There's a line in "Weekend" about how some straight people will willingly look at pictures depicting "refugees or murder or rape." But gay sex? Forget about it. (Actually, the character in question uses a much cruder expression. The bluntness of the dialogue is part of the British movie's sly, out-of-left-field charm.)
That character, an aspiring young artist named Glen (Chris New), is talking to a guy he just met the night before, a cute lifeguard named Russell (Tom Cullen), in a drunken Friday-night hookup that looks, to all appearances, like it isn't going to make it to Saturday night. Glen is referring to art, but he might as well be talking about movies. Some straight people are just squeamish when it comes to the subject of cinematic gay sex.
"Weekend" - which takes a frank and surprisingly sweet look at a one-night stand that turns, improbably over the course of 48 hours, into something like the beginning of a relationship - gives those people every opportunity to bail out. It's uncompromisingly steamy, in a way that seems designed to make people who are uncomfortable with a physical relationship between two men even more uncomfortable.
That's a shame, because the organ that "Weekend" is most concerned with isn't the one you might think, but the human heart.
That Russell and Glen make it past coffee the morning after is actually kind of amazing. Introverted and awkward about his sexuality, Russell is a romantic. Glen, on the other hand, is an egotistical extrovert who isn't looking for love, let alone a long-term relationship. "I don't do boyfriends," he warns Russell. And later, after Russell learns that Glen will be leaving for art school in the States on Sunday: "I don't do good-byes."
That doesn't leave much time for the two of them, or for the movie. But writer-director Andrew Haigh packs a lot into this small but smart film, which finds time, between all the sex and the talk of sex, to make room for other conversations. Glen is working on an art project for which he records his lovers - including Russell - talking dirty. But Haigh also gives the two men opportunity, as they hang out over Saturday and Sunday, to discuss homophobia, gay politics, same-sex marriage, love, loneliness, compromise and coming out. That the characters seem to need a lot of chemical enhancements before they can open up - pot, coke and booze all flow freely - may be true to life, but it's a bit of a disappointment in a film whose candor is otherwise so unforced.
Haigh shoots the film like an eavesdropper. The shaky, hand-held camera, along with shots framed through chain-link fencing or from behind other people's bodies - not to mention Russell and Glen's thick accents and occasionally mumbled dialogue - give "Weekend" a voyeuristic feel, like we're listening in on the discovery of something private, exciting and new.
Russell and Glen are, in fact, discovering something, and not just about each other, but about themselves. It's those revelations - a less literal kind of laying bare - that make this "Weekend" one to remember.
Contains nudity, sex scenes, drug use, sexual dialogue and obscenity.