Weekend is the sort of film which is understated in almost every manner, and the end result is an extremely touching film with a number of excellent performances both behind and in front of the camera.
Tom Cullen plays Russell, a quiet and gentle man in his twenties who enters into a one-night stand after meeting Glen (Chris New) in a gay bar. However, the two men develop a much more profound connection rapidly as writer/director Andrew Haigh shows us the development of their short-lived relationship, before they must part due to Glen’s impending move to America.
The performances of the two leads are extremely well judged and natural, with some really touching chemistry between New and Cullen. A tenderly realised take on the encounter of the pair, the balance of feelings swings between the two extremely effectively – Chris New demonstrates this tremendously when the more confident and comfortable Glen lets this drop and shows touches of his vulnerability. The conversation and dialogue sounds natural and without screen pretension, whilst still having something to say about both straight and gay relationships.
It is much to the film’s benefit that Weekend is far from being an ‘issue’ film, any references to the fact this is a boy-meets-boy tale rather than boy-meets-girl is dealt with in fairly low-key fashion: Glen shouts at someone from Russell’s window and has a surprisingly calm argument with a straight man in a bar. There is never any hint that this will either descend into something more violent or become the central focus of the film. On a number of occasions, the vulgarity of discussions from straight men in public locations contrasts with the stony silence from Russell. All of this, however, simply serves as the backdrop to the very simple romance that forms the entirety of the narrative.
Haigh’s direction is as well judged as the performances he has coaxed from his lead actors, allowing the touching story to be front and centre. The film largely takes place within the confines of Russell’s apartment, but this isn’t to the detriment of the cinematic nature of the film. Haigh frequently finds interesting angles and composition so that the film never feels visually stagnant. It is exactly the sort of film making that looks like it should be straightforward but isn’t – the visual language of the film is simply very unforced and unselfconscious.
The most realistic and touching romance committed to film in some time, Weekend will resonate strongly with anyone who has had someone they care for depart before the growing emotional bond can be fully explored. Although a love story, it is the unromantic and realist presentation of the story which gives it its resonance and allows the characters to mull over issues that go beyond the immediate reality of themselves.