Andrew Haigh


Tom Cullen

Chris New









1 Hr., 37 Mins.

Tom Cullen in 2011's "Weekend."

Weekend July 14, 2018  

Once sunlight begins peeking through Russell’s windows, though, the latter and his ephemeral lover start talking. Small talk is discouraged when Glen pulls out a tape recorder. Purportedly, Russell’s responses will be part of a project the former is working on. Russell is hesitant. But after a few beats of convivial banter, he opens up. A one-night stand has never quite looked like this.


Before Russell heads to work — he spends lonely days as a lifeguard at the local pool — he and Glen politely exchange numbers. Chances of meeting up again seem slim; that should be that. As the day passes, however, Russell has a change of heart. He finds himself wanting to get to know the man with whom he just spend the night. Nervously, he texts Glen. They meet, then end up spending the rest of the weekend talking. A handful of sexual interludes dot the scenery.


The unaffected conceit of Weekend (2011), which was written and directed by the incisive Andrew Haigh (Looking, 2014-'15; 45 Years, 2015), is comparable to the kind found in Richard Linklater’s emotionally sapient Before … trilogy (1995-2013) or Richard Tanne’s mirthful Southside with You (2016). For the length of a feature, we simply watch characters talk. In the process, we discover that watching two people absorbed in one another for a short, but intimate, period is about as riveting as what we might find in a more traditionally structured romantic movie.


Weekend’s premier pleasure comes from seeing people convincingly connect and feel comfortable enough to reveal hard truths about themselves. While there is a wealth of sequences which find Russell and Glen either contemplating alone or going about their lives without the other by their side, the film is most enthralling when they're sitting or lying across from each other, divulging things they’ve rarely felt safe talking over. In one of the movie’s most moving scenes, Glen allows Russell, who is still not wholly at ease with his sexual identity, to practice coming out to his father. Russell has always struggled with so much as telling himself, at least out loud, that he is gay. Glen, who is much more unbolted, changes that.


To make a movie which lives or dies by how well intimacy is developed is certainly onerous. Naturalism is essential. But Weekend is painless. Haigh’s dialogue, which was often tinkered with by the lead actors during the brief production, is effortlessly frank — able to slide back and forth between the playful and the profound without difficulty. Haigh additionally has a penchant for closing out scenes with extreme long shots that appreciate Glen and Russell and their relationships to their surroundings, abetting the increasing idea that this all may be, in fact, them against the world.


Cullen and New’s performances are acute too. The film, of course, would not work without Haigh’s savviness. But the actors offer preternaturally vivid characterizations. When together, they have clear-cut chemistry, for starters. But they are especially exceptional when it comes to effectively presenting who they are outside of the events depicted in the movie. Russell is reticent and anodyne, and is still prone to looking over his shoulder when he might show any sort of affection toward a man in public. Glen, in lieu of appearing secure, gradually proves that while he's not as reserved about his sexuality as Russell is, his usage of humor and self-deprecation are merely methods to cover up his vulnerabilities about his personal and professional lives. In the matter of a few days, these susceptibilities will be broken down, at least slightly. Cullen and New make for a plausible couple, but, more importantly, make for plausible people.


The central affair comes to an end as the weekend closes. This is not because of hard feelings or a loss of passion, but because Glen, who is predisposed to a nomadic way of living, is heading to Portland, Oregon in the name of a job. Russell chases after him, determined to change his mind. “I suppose this is our Notting Hill moment, isn’t it?” Glen muses, despite never actually having seen the movie. They talk for a bit. He and Russell kiss. Glen still leaves.


Then Russell, his heart aching, goes back to his flat, where he listens to the previously mentioned morning-after tape. How nice it would be to relive this wonderful, unexpectedly life-altering weekend. Then the film really strikes a chord. How many people have we met who might be “the one” whom we lose because of circumstance? Weekend wonders. It finds the beauty in even the most transient of a romantic connection. A


ussell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) are 20-something-year-old gay men living in Nottingham, England. They happen to meet in a club on a Friday night. Russell is coming back from his best friend Jamie’s house party — this is a pit stop. Glen, an art student, is letting loose after a tiring working week. They lock eyes a little before the club closes. Disco music pulses in the background. Russell makes the first move. Shortly afterward, they head back to Russell’s apartment and have sex. To both, this is a standard one-night fling.