Shot in little more than a fortnight and covering events taking place just over two days, Andrew Haigh’s recently-released Weekend has been wowing critics and audiences around the world – or at least in those parts of the world which allow gay love to be portrayed on the screen.
Acclaim for the film has been remarkable. For example, Brian Moylan, reviewing Weekend for the US site Gawker, wrote: “We’re so trained to watch romantic movies that are of the dreaded rom-com variety – with its silly conventions, outlandish plots, and preternaturally good-looking people – that seeing something that is familiar and real is not only shocking and disorienting, but really rewarding.
“Weekend is a movie just like that … [It] starts out simply enough, with Russell, a working-class British guy, getting stoned and going to a friend’s house for dinner. Things pick up when he stops by a bar on the way home and picks up another guy, Glen. The next time we see them, they’re lying in bed half-naked the morning after, smelling of stale lube and regret, and Glen is pressuring Russell into describing their hook-up in detail for some sort of art project he’s working on. They awkwardly exchange numbers before Glen heads off and Russell goes to work as a lifeguard a local pool. It seems like it will just be another one of those tricks that fade away into nothingness, another one of those people with no last name cluttering up your contacts list.
“But it doesn’t. Russell texts Glen who meets him after work and they end up spending the whole weekend together, developing a nascent relationship and falling in love …
“It’s sweet and tender as it is real, with the pair staying up all night talking and arguing and doing a bunch of lines and having (rather graphic) sex. This is what real life is like: messy, mundane, and devoid of the silly pretension of the Katherine Heigl cannon. So many people have had this experience, a torrid and doomed affair, that it’s practically universal …
“This is a modern gay movie, with the woes of coming out and AIDS far in the background and no one having to be a martyr like in Brokeback Mountain or Milk. Everything is normalized but it still isn’t comfortable, with men combating not only with acceptance but also the ennui of perpetual Grindr hook-ups. But it is also a modern movie, devoid of the usual Hollywood trappings and instead creating something moving and deep out of snappy dialogue, real life situations, and brilliant performances (Tom Cullen, who plays Russell, deserves an Oscar for his “I just got a dick in my butt” face alone).
“Whether you’re gay or straight, in love or fallen out of it, you can’t escape the truth of what is happening between these two men in one little apartment. Falling into their fully-formed world is the perfect way to spend a weekend, and I can’t recommend it enough.”
A O Scott, reviewing the movie for The New York Times, said: “Andrew Haigh’s astonishingly self-assured, unassumingly profound second feature, is one of the most satisfying love stories you are likely to see on screen this year.”
And Aled Jones, of the Cult Film Forum wrote: “Andrew Haigh’s Weekend is a delightfully tender and warm melodrama about two gay men meeting and then experiencing an unexpected connection. Shot on location in and around Nottingham the film carries a truly refreshing emotional honesty that sidesteps the usual cliché and hysteria of the romantic drama genre.
“The admiration I have for Andrew Haigh comes from the highly naturalistic dialogue he writes and the wonderful performances he has coaxed from his two stars. Weekend feels like an Eric Rohmer drama simply transplanted from France to middle England. The emphasis on dialogue is critical as both slowly reveal more and more over the course of the film. Glen fights against any deep involvement and views it as a weekend of fun and that’s it. The emotional duel they find themselves locked into over the course of the film ultimately leads to understanding each others weaknesses without prejudice.
“The closing sequence takes the film back to one of the most landmark moment in British film as Haigh decides to re-call the legendary Brief Encounter. As in the David Lean movie what we have here is two people somewhat lost searching for meaning as regards their own lives.
“The majesty of Weekend is it’s refusal to push the situation beyond its emotional reach which serves to enhance its honesty.”