Writer-director Andrew Haigh follows up his well-received directorial debut Greek Pete with poignant character-based drama Weekend.
Weekend tells the story of Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glenn (Chris New): two off-base gay guys who meet at a club. After a weekend of heavy drinking, drug-taking and sex, they begin to realise that they may be falling in love, despite their marked differences and opposing approaches to life.
While littered with potent questions about gay rights, politics and love, Haigh retains a light-hearted, discernible air about Weekend for its entirety, never over-explaining anything and procuring plenty of breathing space for the relationship between Russell and Glenn to untangle at its own, slow-burning pace.
It’s utterly gay in its disposition, but remains accessible to all, which marks something of a turning point within what’s been dubbed “queer cinema”. The sexual tension may be candid and sex scenes explicit, but it’s all executed in a way that feels completely authentic and in tune with Russell and Glenn’s affiliation, therefore never endangering the film’s underlying message and overall effect.
Equivalently, Haigh’s directorial approach is light, restrained and imaginative, particularly in the way he invents camera angles to stress the unsaid trust between the two. He bathes the film in natural light that highlights the warming moments of adulation, but also bears notice to the ambiguity hiding beneath Russell and Glenn’s eyes; and subsequently to the shadowy reception their relationship would elicit beyond the security of the tower block in which they spend the majority of their weekend together. The lack of a score further accentuates the comfort they feel in one another’s company, and Haigh’s insistence on maintaining the focus on our two leads.
Some viewers may be put off by this low-key approach, but its success can be attributed in no small part to the performances delivered by both Cullen and New. They both inject a soothing naturalism into the contrasting twosome: Russell, a timid, emotionally sheltered lifeguard happy in his own world; and Glenn, a spirited, forthright student keen on standing up for himself and asserting his sexuality.
Weekend is a remarkably assured, charismatic, distinct and refreshingly unabridged romantic drama about two gay men finding love at the unlikeliest of times. Go, see it, and then shout about it afterwards.