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by Eric Kohn
September 21, 2011 2:13 AM
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REVIEW | Gay Romance "Weekend" Deserves Its Breakout Status

Andrew Haigh's "Weekend" Sundance Selects

Writer-director Andrew Haigh's British drama "Weekend" depicts a fleeting romantic encounter with delicacy and philosophical depth, but its chief appeal is simplicity. Revolving around a brief affair between two young men with vastly different perspectives on life, the film operates on a familiar dynamic; however, it works here thanks to the precise alignment of talented actors and a focused screenplay. Humming along on the commitment of its engaging leads, "Weekend" builds into a powerful encapsulation of an identity crisis over the course of three passionate days.

[Editor's Note: This review was originally published during the SXSW Film Festival. "Weekend' opens in select theaters this Friday.]

Haigh, making his sophomore feature after 2010's "Greek Pete," primarily takes the perspective of Russell (Tom Cullen), a shy lifeguard and semi-closet case who lives by himself. Following an early dinner with friends, he heads alone to a local gay bar and winds up going home with the seductive Glen (Chris New), an outgoing artist-type who urges Russell to record the details of their sexual encounter on tape the next morning. Russell hesitantly indulges the request, revealing his greater trepidation over leading a gay lifestyle.

The men are instantly attracted to the other's differences, as if discovering the missing details of their own lives. Bound for America when the week arrives, Glen carves out room for his new companion and the impromptu relationship quickly covers a lot of ground. Attending parties, smoking pot and having sex, they talk about art and politics and develop a bond as Monday's deadline looms.

Fiercely anti-relationship and playfully intellectual, Glen routinely opposes Russell's conservative ways. However, Glen's free-love radicalism masks a darker backstory. The tension mounts, with Glen's feisty outlook running counter to Russell's pragmatism. "Imagine if people were open about themselves," Glen says. "But people aren't," Russell shoots back. They fall into an extensive coke-fueled debate about gay marriage before quickly making up and starting to worry about their emerging connection. With this on-again, off-again rhythm, "Weekend" maintains its quiet spell. By the final minutes, the men seem to have grown so close that their inevitable farewell takes on the semblance of tragedy. (Haigh even gives the scene a classic cinematic flourish by setting it at a train station.)

In a single, reductive soundbite, "Weekend" could be considered the gay "Medicine for Melancholy," which similarly dealt with the aftermath of a one-night stand. But "Weekend" is more specifically tied to Russell's personal dilemma about the travails of coming out. His epiphany arrives when Glen tells him about the gap between "who you want to be and who you are," but the story's time constraints mean that Russell never figures out how to fix that problem. And yet with the final, contemplative shot, he conveys an unspoken dimension of progress, even though his next step is anybody's guess.

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Having screened in the Emerging Visions section at SXSW on the first day of the festival, "Weekend" received an instantly enthusiastic response from many buyers and has been developing breakout status as a gay relationship movie with crossover potential. In the right hands, it could become just that.

criticWIRE grade: A-

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2 Comments

  • severne screwloose | March 3, 2013 6:10 AMReply

    weekend does not deserve it's place in the list of top queer dramas. it's prudish camera angles have left me depressed and disillusioned. i wasted a full 45 minutes of my life watching this piece of trash..only to discover that they would be withhold all of the WANG from me throughout. i give it one and a half wangs.

  • Adam Szulc | September 21, 2011 4:12 AMReply

    No it doesn't. Here's my complete review: http://cannesanite.blogspot.com/2011/09/weekend.html

    As someone who feels extremely passionate about Queer Cinema, it comes to me as a crude disappointment to see everyone getting so excited over Heigh's "Weekend". There is absolutely nothing special about this film!