Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011) – Blu-ray review
I’m late to this party but hey, now I’m here, let’s dance. Weekend is up there with the best of 2011 in a year that delivered an embarrassment of riches for British cinema. It’s so low-key you might not be aware of it (even the extras are just a bunch of people talking, like the film) but Weekend is incredibly moving and effortlessly endearing. Check out the Blu-ray from Monday 19th March.
(Andrew Haigh, UK, 2011)
The briefest of encounters, but this gay romance strikes a chord through its grounded style and emotional uplift
If there’s a running theme amongst the great screen love stories, from Casablanca and Brief Encounter to the Before Sunrise/Sunset diptych, it’s that the most affecting romances are struck under pressure. Stick a countdown on an action thriller, it’s a cliché; impose a time limit on love and somehow the intimacy blooms, two souls grasping to make the most of a connection that might soon fade away.
Andrew Haigh’s Weekend nails that feeling so completely, so naturally, that it transcends the specifics of the relationship. And no, I don’t mean the fact that both of the lovers involved are men, but that somehow such a fragile, funny relationship can play out against the backdrop of a sleepy weekend in Nottingham, just down the road from where I live.
In essence, this is the same film as Julio Medem’s recent lesbian one-night stand movie Room In Rome, but Andrew Haigh’s grasp of tart wit and queeny vernacular makes that film look facile in its fetishising of the female form. Instead, the fellas here are lumpy, hairy and raw, their sex scenes refreshingly awkward and the talk brimming with candour and feeling. I’ve lived in Derby most of my life, and the majority of gay men I’ve met looked and sounded exactly like this. Maybe the proximity makes the film better, or maybe it’s just genuinely on the money in its study of human behaviour.
Does it matter that these guys are gay? Their sexuality certainly informs the dynamic between Tom Cullen’s closeted Russell, embarrassed about public displays of affection, and Chris New’s militant Glenn, obsessed with society’s two-faced attitude towards homosexuality. But it matters not a jot in terms of the universal truth about those early encounters between new lovers, that weird mix of putting on an act and opening up.
The two men achieve a rapport early on and the film is bang-on in the way people talk – I’m particularly fond of Glenn’s reticence in talking about his art project because he doesn’t want to “sound like a cunt.” It’s so obvious that these two are perfectly matched (Glenn’s cattiness bringing Russell out of his shell, Russell giving Glenn a taste of companionship he’s shunned out of habit) and it’s not just obvious to us, but to them, giving the film its frisson of tragedy.
I’m in the weird position of already having a film called Weekend – Godard’s revolutionary 1960s road movie – amongst my all-time favourites. I wonder if Haigh knows that film, because there’s a real sense of Godard, especially Breathless, in the film’s commitment to setting its own rhythm. Suiting the story, Haigh films discreetly, from a distance, whenever the characters are in public… but yet he allows his camera to hang in gorgeous long takes whenever the action comes back to Russell’s flat.
The result is one of those great films in the vein of Last Tango In Paris where on-set privacy breaks down the divide between performer and performance, and you stop believing these are actors. Haigh knows it: a frequent motif is a subtle but inexorable zoom, the camera effectively leaning forward to catch their whispered pillow talk. You’ll find yourself doing the same thing.