MOVIE REVIEW: Weekend
Starring Tom Cullen and Chris New
Thematically compared to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise ever since it premiered at the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival, Andrew Haigh’s Weekend is a film immersed in the fated moments of perspective and romance. Static opening camera shots of a small living room suggest this connection, emphasizing the hidden ways time and space overlap on a daily basis. As the image holds on a windowsill or a bed, a real sense of place settles in before cutting to the next focal point.
Haigh’s camera watches and listens to the sounds of England, paying attention to the patterns of speech and the contours of skin in a single frame, all without any judgment. It’s a beautiful and sublime vision of the everyday world, one that realizes a specific understanding for its character’s conflicts and joys.
The apartment belongs to Russell (Tom Cullen), a handsome but shy lifeguard who suppresses his own homosexuality not out of fear but convenience. As he prepares for a night out, traveling first to a party at a childhood friend’s house then to a gay club, it’s clear Russell is a lonely searcher. Haigh frames his character’s figure in striking long shots, as if Russell has been forced into the fabric of regular society and consumed by the assumptions the straight world places upon him.
This all changes when Russell shares a one-night stand with an artist named Glen (Chris New). The next morning, when narrative convention would separate the pair for a while to allow the awkwardness to evaporate, Weekend breaks down the normal hierarchies of the romance film. It allows the two men an opportunity to share a sense of intimacy and tenderness without the crutch of stereotype.
A lovely, complicated, and adult relationship follows. Glen’s taboo-destroying art project, audio recordings of his lover’s next-day confessions and observations, directly challenges Russell’s insecurities about his own sexuality. Gradually, each character’s back-story comes to light one luminescent conversation at a time, and thankfully none of these revelations seem overly dramatic or manipulative.
Many times the characters cannot express themselves through words, giving a seemingly innocuous glance or a gaze even more added weight. Of course, time is short for the couple since Glen leaves for America the next day, making every waking moment prime real estate. That the film manages to pack so much characterization into such little amount of time is amazing.
Weekend may be too fleeting at times, but it’s always dedicated to the character’s process of understanding each other rather than the way the world sees them. The final shot on a train platform, which involves a very public display of intensely private affection, cements Haigh’s complex vision of romantic intimacy. Fulfillment and joy lies in the power of individual moments, and Weekend displays an entire lifetime’s worth in just a few days.
Weekend is currently playing at the Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas