Today: February 27, 2024

Weekend

It seems faintly absurd that, in this day and age, we should feel obliged to make the case for why it is that more straight people should watch gay films.

It seems faintly absurd that, in this day and age, we should feel
obliged to make the case for why it is that more straight people should watch
gay films.
Many fans of gay independent film will stress the educational
benefits of watching a film about people unlike yourself but this makes it all
sound a little bit too much like homework. People should not seek out Andrew Haigh’s Weekend because they feel obliged to be supportive of minority
filmmaking or because they want to see something a bit different and exotic.
The case for watching Haigh’s Weekend
is the same for watching any great film: Watch it because it will help you to
better understand yourself. In fact, Weekend
is the single most grown-up film about human relationships that you will see
this year and that is true regardless of who you are and how you live your
life.

Weekend begins with a bearded man in a flat cap firing up his crack
pipe. The bearded man then heads out for an evening with a bunch of friends who
get horribly drunk and talk obnoxiously about strippers. All throughout the
evening, the man in the flat cap is guarded and quiet until he leaves the party
and goes to dreary-looking gay club where he stumbles around before ogling up
someone at the urinals. The tension between the quiet man who has nothing to
say about strippers and the drunken horn-dog who doesn’t even bother with
conversation becomes evident the following morning when his fellow urinal user
and sexual conquest begins interviewing him for an ‘art project’. As the
interview progresses, it soon becomes evident that the man in the flat cap
(named Russell and played by Tom Cullen)
is not just shy and introverted but also not particularly forthcoming about his
sexuality. His new friend, on the other hand (named Glenn and played by Chris New) is both explicit in his
language and passionate about the need to confront society’s tendency to assume
that everyone is straight. Having
introduced these two characters and suggested that they are bound by a mutual
attraction that transcends their philosophical differences, Weekend slowly unpacks both the
psychology of its characters and the precise nature of their mutual attraction.

Far from an archetypal closet case,
Russell is actually an intensely sincere and romantic individual who not only
believes in love but also the increasingly old-fashioned idea that some things
have no place in polite conversation. Glenn, on the other hand, seems to have
built his entire personality around the need to confront heteronormativity. As
a result, Glenn not only talks loudly about his sexuality and encourages others
to do the same, he also adopts a sneering and sarcastic attitude towards
anything he deems traditional, sentimental or overly straight. Rather than
picking a side and convincing the other party of the error of their ways, Weekend presents both viewpoints as both
legitimate and eminently sympathetic. Writer/director Haigh achieves this
wonderful even-handedness by devoting large sections of the film to having his
two characters try to work out how it is that the other person ticks. For
example, convinced that the homosexual mode of being is fundamentally different
to that of heterosexuals, Glenn tries to convince Russell that his reserved and
romantic nature is nothing more than a manifestation of self-loathing in
someone who is fundamentally ashamed to be gay. Similarly, Russell tries to
convince Glenn that his confrontational lack of sentimentality is just a bitter
reaction against being hurt in a previous relationship.

The brilliance of Weekend lies not only in its refusal to
come down on one side of this debate but also in its willingness to place us in
the position of characters who are desperately trying to both understand the
other side of the debate and see something of themselves in it. As Haigh moves
us slowly back and forth between the two characters’ positions he opens up not
only their perspectives on the world but also the fundamental humanity that
lies between these differing sets of ideas. The result is not only a
fascinating character study but also a touching love story about two very
different people who find it increasingly difficult to imagine a world in which
they are not together.

Weekend is a film so overflowing with humanity that it cuts to the
very bone of what it means to be lost, lonely and a little bit afraid. The
film’s ending, though not exactly satisfactory from a genre standpoint, is
nonetheless perfectly true to both its characters and their burgeoning
relationship. Indeed, it is in this brutal honesty and integrity that Weekend’s
true universality becomes apparent: Are we not all human? Do we not all want
something from the world? Do we not all feel lonely from time to time?
Regardless of your sexuality or your interest in so-called ‘gay issues’, Weekend is a film that speaks to the
human in all of us.

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