Weekend pulls viewers in so deeply that I felt I needed a shower and a nap afterward. And I mean this in the best possible way: I will remember this film as one of the sweetest, most sincere love stories of the decade, as well as a revolutionary gay love story.
Set in small-town England, Weekend immediately challenges expectations with long, intimate stills of an apartment and its owner, Russell (Tom Cullen). He soaks in the bath and then dresses in a fashion typically reserved for scenes of women preparing to go out.
The film is engaging to the point of inclusion: At the hands of director Andrew Haigh, the cinematography places us in the bathroom with Russell, with such gentleness and sincerity that our eyes nearly well up with the overwhelming beauty. Of course, it helps that Cullen is a total hottie.
We become Russell as he visits a party at his straight best friend’s house—we can feel the awkwardness and secrecy around his gayness—before letting loose at gay bar, where we get drunk and take Glen (Chris New) home.
In the cringing morning light, we just want Glen to leave so we can get on with our day. But, no…he pulls out a tape recorder and starts asking embarrassing and gratuitous questions about the previous night. We die a thousand deaths on behalf of more conservative, daytime Russell, who struggles to keep his dignity and manners while trying to hustle Glen out of his flat.
As the film progresses, we fall in love—with Glen, with Russell, with love itself. We follow the lovers on their weekend affair, the first real sex scene coming after deeper feelings between the men emerge. This could be the most important part of the movie. Never in my short life have I seen gay male sex portrayed so simply, so humanly and soooo sexily.
Weekend is not a “gay film” the way Brokeback Mountain was a gay film steeped in hype and melodrama; however, as often happens in our strangely balanced universe, the characters frequently revisit the topic of being gay—who’s out of the closet, who’s not, what the “straights” think and do, and how much the characters really don’t care about any of it.
I wanted to say, “Hey man, it’s not about that. It’s just about you guys loving each other; don’t you get it?” But maybe it’s not my place to say when enough gay talk is enough.
When Glen says to Russell, “In America they went out on the street and demanded their rights to get married, and here we just hide,” we realize that many places are less accepting than (parts of) the good old US (cue single tear for national pride).
Weekend is not for the recently converted ex-homophobe, the last sex scene being, um, rather gratuitous, even if the slow pleasure delay makes it necessary. However, the film escapes the limitations of the gay film label by reminding us of the tender and damaged aspects that reside in all of us.
Directed by Andrew Haigh
With Tom Cullen and Chris New