By Anna Bielak | February 7, 2012
Director: Andrew Haigh
Writer: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Laura Freeman, Vauxhall Jermaine
When one touches somebody’s else body too hard, pleasure may at first turn into instantaneous pain, then into indifference. Gentle touch stimulates skin receptors much more, impressions linger for much longer. Similar mechanisms lend writer-director Andrew Haigh’s subtle and calmly told Weekend such a strong undertone.
In his first feature film, the British director underlines that the three days, which Glen (Chris New) and Russell (Tom Cullen) spend with each other, are ordinary; common, in a sense that they could happen in anybody’s life — sexual preferences are unimportant. Locations are so significant for the story and the camerawoman (Ursula Pontikos) examines them from multiple perspectives. The action is set mainly at the simple, typical, and so British — and so well-known from Ken Loach and Mike Leigh’s movies — housing estate. Blocks of flats’ walls are painted grey; every single apartment is more or less the same as the others. This is key to feeling that the Glen-Russell story could happen behind any of these walls. It has a dimension of everyday adventure.
While the two men talk about their emotions, echoes bounce among the grey walls and I hear once again everything I have ever read about feelings, what I have ever heard, what has ever been told to me. An unnaturally strong sensation is born, I once again experience love that I have experienced thousands of time. In the meantime, two men are getting to know each other better… Russell saw Glen at a party. “I felt that I am out of your league”, he explains, despite the fact that he woke up the next morning at the Glen’s side. One party. One-night-stand. Nobody could predict how strong of a feeling would appear.
Chris New’s Glen is a bit messy and lost, yet very conscious about his needs and is extremely appealing. In Russell, there is only softness, which becomes exasperating sometimes. However, thanks to that, a very interesting inequality appears between them. Haigh deals with it in a really good way. Despite Glen’s undeniable charm, the lead character of the romance becomes Russell. Why? Because we would rather follow him while he goes to work, because the two men usually meet at his place; but it is the foundation of Russell’s world that trembles; he is the one who changes the most during the film. Furthermore, Russell is the perfect model for Glen’s artistic project. “When you sleep with somebody for the first time, the gap between who you are and who you would like to be is formed”. What is inside this gap? For Glen, there are his Gender Studies considerations of homosexuality and shame. In Russell’s gap there is nothing apart from himself.
Tom Cullen’s Russell does not know who he is — even if he could be anybody, because he is not predestined to be anybody. Russell is the one who does not have parents, roots or history. There is nothing he could hide from or runaway from. There are no frontiers anymore, there is no tradition. In return we have some kind of liquidity of identity, some inertia — beautifully enclosed within the film’s images. There is specific rhythm in Weekend, although there is no music. There are emotions, while there is no relationship. There is an absorbing, addictive film, even though there is no dynamic action.
Jonathan Romney from The Independent called Andrew Haigh the master of the “Two-People-Talking-In-A-Room Movie” genre. This distinction is perfect and consists of everything that is valuable in Weekend: intimacy, commonness, everyday life, intensiveness of experience, the ability to share space, time and memories between each other. The Glen-Russell conversations are taught, the narrative is never ponderous. There is a kind of lightness in the story, like there is kind of lightness in every weekend, that is short, passes too quickly and leaves behind only an ephemeral recollection which melts into regular weekdays. Yet, what is most beautiful in Haigh’s film is that realism, that normalness. The director tells a simple love story that does not need a genre, or overdrawn stylization, similar to Tom Ford’s A Single Man (2009) or Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art (1998). The feeling in Weekend is sublime enough to be remembered as something beautiful.
Also be sure to check out Don Simpson’s review of Weekend.
Go to Stopklatka.pl for the original Polish-language version of Anna’s review.