Director: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New
Runtime: 95 minutes
The height of intimacy, connection and humanity in a relationship has nothing to do with sex. It doesn’t matter who we are, what organs we have or how we use them. The most effective way of connecting with your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, husband, wife or whoever is communication. Conversation. We share more of ourselves in our conversations than we could possibly share through sex, and the key to a healthy relationship does not lie wholly in what we do with our genitals. This idea, of which I’m a fervent believer, is at the heart of Weekend, a film that will appeal to anyone who has ever loved, or felt true intimacy with another person.
Russell and Glen are not alone but alienated. The world around them either has no patience for them or doesn’t think on their level. They meet at a bar, go home, do drugs and have sex, and in the morning, when this one-night-stand should reach it’s awkward end, it doesn’t. Glen is an artist; his art is recording random people talking about their sex lives, which at first seems perverted but soon gains a strange, eerie beauty. He records a confused Russell talking about their evening, and this leads Russell to deal with the issue of coming out to his estranged parents, as well as his coworkers. While they speak inanely about their sexual fantasies, he is the one sitting at the end of the table, nibbling on his sandwich in distaste.
Tom Cullen and Chris New, who play Russell and Glen, have terrific chemistry. Their sex scenes are alive with a furious intensity and a powerful lust. Some people find gay sex disgusting. I really don’t see how it’s that different from heterosexual sex. Certainly the same raw energy of mad desire is present, and isn’t it that attraction and humanity that makes sex what it is? Their sex scenes are arguably more passionate and realistic than most in film these days, and contain real, powerful emotion that continues past the physical side into their endless, thought-provoking conversations about the reactions people have to homosexuality in society. Couples watching at home will recognize that even in Russell and Glen’s small arguments, the same quiet attraction and care for each other, though masked, is still present.
The director, Andrew Haigh, worked as an editor on films such as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, and this is only his second feature. Like many independent filmmakers, he uses both static and handheld shots – static to show outdoor locales for a longer duration than mainstream movies would dare, and handheld to capture conversations and faces in a more direct, down-to-earth manner. Haigh’s screenplay is also excellent; dialogue is one of the keys to this film, and it is brilliantly written in a manner reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise/Sunset movies and Waking Life. Independent filmmakers are continuing to prove that you don’t have to be Quentin Tarantino to write great dialogue – sometimes truly inspired words just come to you, and flow like water.
The dialogue is key to the film, but it really is the performances of Cullen and New that bring the words to life, and I find myself continually more impressed with the acting skills of relative unknowns than Hollywood stars. Perhaps it’s because Hollywood stars are given script after script, whereas less employed actors, when they receive a script, really have the time to focus on it and bring life to the role. I can’t imagine this being the same film acted by mainstream stars. This is one of the movies where its obvious independent style is pivotal to its appeal and wonder. I absolutely loved it. The freedom so visible in indie movies makes them the great achievements they often are, and I would take an indie film over a mainstream one any day of the week – Weekend is yet another film that serves to enhance that point in my mind. I recently saw another movie, this one from the late 60s directed by Eric Rohmer, called My Night at Maud’s, which features a long sequence in which two people discuss sex in frank terms. While Weekend adopts a more modern approach to its dialogue and acting, both films serve as key examples of how conversations can really bring out the intimacy between two people in ways sex simply can’t anymore. Weekend is definitely one of the best movies of last year, and in its words, its actors, its style and its attitude, I felt something wonderful inside me echoing its voice like a bell: “This is what more movies should be like.”