Weekend (Sundance Selects, NR)

The gist here is that Russell and Glen meet in a bar and become enamored of one another fast, except we soon learn that Glen is meant to move to America in a day or two.

 

 

One of the biggest touchstones in queer cinema of the past 20 years or so is the 1996 British film Beautiful Thing. While on the whole I tend to be a fan of what are vaguely referred to as “gay-interest” films (as if that’s a genre or something—trust me, it’s not), Beautiful Thing has always struck me as grating and lazy, and pretty thoroughly lacking in merit. In its place as Important British Film with Gay Leads, I nominate Andrew Haigh’s new release Weekend, which has Beautiful Thing trumped on every front, as well as most other recent movies besides.
At its heart, Weekend feels like an American independent, despite the fact that it’s British: It wears influences such as sex, lies, and videotape, Before Sunrise, and others rather prominently. Much like those films, it focuses on a small cast—in this case, really only two characters, Russell (Tom Cullen), a lifeguard who spends most of his time with straight people and is not always terribly forthcoming with his sexuality, and Glen (Chris New), an artist who is upfront about his sexual orientation, but not in the traditional Hollywood way of being loud and sassy and irritating; it’s more that he’s just comfortable with who he is and what he likes. Glen being an artist (who is working on a piece at least marginally related to gay sex, which is sort of how he meets Russell) allows for some barbs that seem political out of the context of the movie (“No one’s going to come see it—it’s about gay sex”) or, later in the same conversation, “They’ll go and see pictures of refugees or murder or rape, but gay sex—fuck off.” These quotes can easily be plucked out by people like me and applied directly to this film, but in a way that’d be a disservice to the film, as the reality of watching the movie doesn’t seem political at all. Both Russell and Glen are likeable characters and it won’t take long to empathize with them, regardless your sexual orientation.
The gist here is that Russell and Glen meet in a bar and become enamored of one another fast, except we soon learn that Glen is meant to move to America in a day or two. There isn’t much of the wistful “I wish I’d met you sooner” stuff, nor really even the getting-to-know-you stuff; a great deal of the film is just good conversations between Russell and Glen regarding their respective worldviews. The film’s copious dialogue is well-written and easily quotable, but never easily catty or stereotypical. This is the type of film that wouldn’t be referred to as a “gay interest” film if movies with homosexual leads weren’t so uncommon; the themes and emotions are universal. Perhaps a better comparison than Beautiful Thing in terms of overall quality would be Lukas Moodysson’s 1998 film about young lesbians, Show Me Love, of which I have long been a fan, and which jumpstarted Moodysson into one of the more admirable careers of a young, modern filmmaker. Here’s hoping Weekend does the same for Andrew Haigh. | Pete Timmermann

 

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