By Don Simpson | October 13, 2011
Director: Andrew Haigh
Writer: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Tom Cullen, Chris New
Why do we as a society label people according to their sexual preferences? Why does it matter if someone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, asexual, transgender…or whatever? Who cares? Why is sexuality anyone’s business but one’s own (and…well…their partner’s)? Those labels have had a segregating effect for queer culture ever since their inception. Sure, it makes sense that bars and night clubs cater to specific gender demographics; but can’t everyone hang out at the same bar or night club once in a while too? And why are homosexual couples granted less civil liberties (specifically the right to marry) than people of heterosexual persuasions? While I am at it, please tell me why some religious fanatics and churches feel it is within their power to damn non-heterosexuals to hell? What right does one human being have to damn another human being to hell? Is that not their god’s decision to make?
Okay, there is a method to my madness… (Really, there is!) The reason I hopped on that proverbial soapbox is thanks in no small part to writer-director Andrew Haigh’s Weekend. Not that Haigh directly confronts any of those issues — or is ever overtly political in his tactics — but it is impossible to ignore that these issues are all simmering just below the visible layer of the narrative. The fact that Haigh is able to thoughtfully and intelligently convey queer issues without ever blatantly addressing them is one of the many brilliant aspects of Weekend.
On the surface, Weekend is a rather simple romantic drama about a somewhat reserved lifeguard named Russell (Tom Cullen) and an outgoing artist named Glen (Chris New). Russell and Glen are both pissed drunk when they fatefully meet at a gay club. The next morning, Glen incessantly urges Russell to dictate the details of their sexual encounter — at least whatever details he can recall — on audio tape for an art project. Thus begins the fiery yet playful yin and yang effect of their relationship…
Russell quickly discovers that Glen is an anti-relationship, outspoken, free-love radical while Glen realizes that Russell is a tad timid and a bit conservative. From the moment of their meeting, the sole purpose of the narrative is to provide the audience with the sheer mundanity of their conversations and everyday lives. (If Weekend was made in the United States it would fit nicely into the Mumblecore fold; but with its British pedigree we can say that it is a modern kindred of British kitchen sink realism.) In doing so, Haigh communicates to the audience that Russell and Glen are normal people. The fact that they are gay does not differentiate them from those of us who are not gay. We observe Russell and Glen as they flounder about, attempting to negotiate the course of the first couple days of their relationship — just as a lot of heterosexual couples do. That is one of the other brilliant aspects of Weekend, the way the story becomes a universal one, transcending all notions of sexual preference and gender. Other than when Russell and Glen kiss each other and have sex, there is nothing gay about these characters, they transcend categorization. Even the film’s ending co-opts a classic trope from heterosexual cinema, cleverly pointing out that the gender of the characters bidding farewell to each other on the train station platform really does not matter; what matters is that the audience is adequately convinced that the two characters love each other and the impending division will tear their hearts apart.