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I just watched WEEKEND at a screening at the Oslo LGBT film festival, and am still in shock. This is the most real cinematic version of guys falling in love in recent history. I'm a filmmaker myself, and was blown away by the caliber of the writing, directing, acting, cinematography, editing, and music of this fantastic film. There's not a false note in the movie--everything rings true, even the ending (no spoilers here.) It's the rare film, like WINTER'S BONE last year, that at every turning point takes what I call the elegant decision. WEEKEND is at a higher level than all other LGBT films playing the festival circuit this year (the only other film near this level is Tom Twyker's 3.) Actually, it's at a higher level than almost all films playing anywhere this year. Where did this film come from? Apparently the brilliant mind of Andrew Haigh (writer/director/editor), who, I noted on an IMDb search, started as an apprentice editor on GLADIATOR, and then assistant editor on BLACK HAWK DOWN (working with the master editor Pietro Scalia on both. Go UCLA!) I look forward to seeing more of Haigh's work. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT miss this movie.
There are countless films about people falling in love, but when you
see Weekend you realise just how rare films are that make a sincere
attempt to catch what it really is like to fall for someone, without
sentimentality, forced cuteness or cheap emotional manipulation. This
is the rare love story that has real emotional truth about it. The fact
that it is about two men who fall for each other is almost secondary to
the way the film catches the universality of what it is like to fall in
love. Weekend is not about exceptional people, just about two average,
if smart and likable men, tentatively getting close to each other and
it catches lightning in a bottle.
This is not to play down the importance of Weekend as a gay film. Gay issues are touched upon and some good political points are made about gay men in todays society, but it's never in a didactic way. Nothing here feels forced, there is a naturalness about the acting and dialogue, real chemistry between the two leads and a sense of lightness about the filmmaking that yet never feels trivial. Weekend catches the little moments of life beautifully and it finds beauty in the everyday.
The acting here is simply amazing from both leads but Tom Cullen as the more quiet, introverted Russell has a touching vulnerability about him and gives what I would regard as the best performance of the year by a male actor. It's all there in tiny details, there is never a moment when you don't utterly believe what goes on in his heart, it's all there in his eyes and the most subtle shifts of expression. No doubt this performance will be overlooked in favour of more histrionic turns this year, but this is what truly great screen acting is about. I think I fell a little bit in love with him myself.
The IMDb summary of the film does it no justice whatsoever. This piece of art depicted the most genuine and sincere definition of love in any motion picture that I have seen. Besides the fact that the script was well-written, the actors carried the story to fruition in their slightest of gestures, glances, and articulations. You really fall in love with Glen and Russell and want them to be with each other. There are parts where you'll laugh, parts where you might tear up, and parts where you might wonder if you've ever felt what these characters feel for each other. There are some wonderful scenes cinematically as well. The ending is satisfying and resonant of real life, which is a nice change of pace when compared to other love stories. This is the movie that you should see, and I hope you will.
In "Weekend," a beautifully acted and written indie drama from
writer/director (and editor) Andrew Haigh, two gay men fall heavily for
each other over the course of a 2 or 3 day period, each getting at
something in the other that no one before had managed to do. But this
is not a "gay" movie, and people who stay away from it because they
think it has a gay agenda, or that it has nothing to say to them, or
who are simply uncomfortable with the sight of two men having sex, will
deny themselves the pleasure of seeing a film with a universal message
about what it's like to be lonely and the search for meaningful human
connections that kind of loneliness motivates.
It's not that Haigh avoids addressing the complications of being gay in the present day. Part of what I admired about the film was that it put being gay, and the constant energy it takes on the part of gay men to either fight or ignore the ignorance and hostility they must constantly endure, in a context that anybody can understand. The film's central character, Russell (Tom Cullen), has been raised as a foster child in a "straight" environment. His foster brother knows he's gay and is accepting of it, but even at that, Russell's time with his brother and his brother's family only accentuates the desolate fact that the kind of "normal" happiness his brother enjoys (the solidarity of a strong marriage, children) is something that at best he will have to fight for or at worst will be denied altogether. The bitterness this harsh reality can create in gay men is illustrated in the character of Glen (Chris New), a crusader who believes happiness in marriage is a sham perpetrated by the straight community and that attempts at finding contentment and satisfaction in a life partner are akin to tilting at windmills.
Cullen and New deliver award-worthy performances, so it's a shame that this film's size and subject matter will deny it any kind of major awards attention. The film is actually breathtaking at moments, albeit in an unassuming way, in its frankness and its ability to capture perfectly in words ideas about the way our societies treat relationships, commitments and love that I had only half articulated to myself. It would be easy to believe that Haigh found two non-actors roaming the streets, asked them to star in a movie, gave them situations to play out without a script, and filmed the results. It's that authentic.
I hope people see this movie.
Just back from seeing Weekend at a mainstream cinema in London and simply wanted to say that the other reviewers here have hit the nail on the head perfectly. This film is literally flawless - so real, so well acted, naturalistic dialogue spoken utterly naturally. It captured my 20s in a bottle. Thank you to all involved. I'd forgotten cinema could be this fantastic. I liked the fact that the film's location was kept anonymous - most appropriate, given that the film was so accurately observed and depicted that it could have been about many of my friends, all over the UK. Some excellent cinematography too - lingering shots of a normal British city, captured at sunset/mid-afternoon/anytime, worked well at keeping the pace reflective. Finally, the moments of passion were handled sensitively, but, again, so realistically. One particularly stunning moment was the cut away and sudden fast forward to the morning - somehow capturing instantly the bleak moment that follows ecstasy, but doing it in a non-showy way. I will be watching for more of Andrew Haigh's work.
It is a delight to see a film that makes no concessions in the telling
of its story. Everything about the film is as it should be. The
dialogue is funny, witty, sad, provoking but spoken in a manner you'd
expect from the characters. The writer never shied away from the
language these people would use or stop them acting as they would in
the circumstances. The themes are adult and again honest, but it is not
an "adult film". Nothing is gratuitous, not one second of the film is
wasted as the story is perfectly pitched. At times it is crude and
would shock your granny, but it's an honest slice of life.
If you only like high-tech, action packed films, it isn't for you. If you like a well written story, realistically portrayed, wonderfully produced and brilliantly acted films, then this is a little gem of a film and it will be your loss if you miss it.
Weekend is everything that is brilliant about British Independent Cinema delightfully packaged into one film. Best film I've seen this year by far.
Two gay men pick each other up in a disco in Nottingham and get to know
each other over the next two days. They talk, drink, do some drugs,
make love, meet people and discover how much they have in common.
Russell, who is out to his friends but not to his workmates, would like
to get into a relationship. Glen, out to everyone, has had a
relationship go bad and is about to move to the US, so he's not looking
to get involved.
Andrew Haigh, a writer/director from the Mike Leigh school of intense naturalism, shows us the intricate dynamics of a relationship which just happens to be between two men. The interaction is more important than the sex (which is relatively low-key). This is - obviously! - a gay movie, but it could just as easily be a straight movie.
Tom Cullen and Chris New give finely judged, sensitive performance as the two men who fancy each other, like each other and come to realise that they could very easily come to love each other. WEEKEND has a more intimate, less 'epic' story than BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, but the viewer is invited in a very similar way to watch two people fall into a love affair that may or may not have a future. This is a small movie that packs a big punch.
I watched this film after a friend highly recommended it. The gay film
festivals and critics' awards and nominations it's been getting are
Russell (Tom Cullen), a young gay man in Nottingham, UK, picks up Glen (Chris New) at a nightclub. They have a one-night stand but realize they share much more than animal attraction. They spend a weekend together trying to figure out whether or not they can turn this into something "concrete".
"Weekend" is part of the 'brief encounter' subgenre I am a big fan of. It's a 'talkie' for excellence; if you love films like "Lost In Translation", "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset", you'll probably be smitten by this as well. A naturalistic approach to filmmaking - especially to such a dialogue-driven narrative like this - is very hard to pull off; but writer/director/editor Andrew Haigh knows how to create sparks. Special kudos go to the excellent protagonists, Tom Cullen and Chris New, whose on-screen chemistry is palpable, moving, and simply a pleasure to watch. This is a weekend you shouldn't sleep through.
What a "lovely" (a phrase used, to much effect, by one of our characters) surprise! Agree with other postings that this film is one of the best gay films ... ever. And I have been wading through many clinkers, alas, in the past 35 years of watching gay themed movies. The two men, and their situation, becomes increasingly engrossing. They are real and the dialog rings so true. Some with long memories, or a love of classic films, might think this instant classic is reminiscent of a long-ago movie. But without spoiling or leading you on, you'll have to consider that after you see Weekend. Two thoughts - Why hasn't this film been attracting larger audiences? And I wish we had another 30 minutes to spend with Glen and Russell. Enjoy first rate filmmaking. Congratulations to the writer-director and the two leading men.
In reading several reviews posted about this outstanding film, I note
*I'm sick to death of people complaining they cannot understand English people speaking English. Pay attention, they are completely understandable!
*This isn't a romantic comedy!
*If straight audiences are squeamish about a movie anyone can relate to--well tough!
A superior film about a sexual and then romantic period in two young men's lives, WEEKEND is a riveting and adult piece of filmmaking. Andrew Haigh's writing and direction is so well observed and detailed the viewer is left astounded at the simplicity of his vision and the skill of his masterly direction.
Tom Cullen and Chris New play Russell and Glen with utter conviction, all the more impressive in their love scenes, and in their moments of intimate touching because one of them is straight. This must have been nerve-wracking for both of them and yet they handle these scenes with restraint and with believable ardor.
I loved the scene where Russell is visiting his straight best friend and finally admits he is deeply shaken by Glen. His friend is perfectly happy and insistent to drive him to the railroad station.
The only scene that didn't completely work for me was their night of boozing and drugging. I just didn't see Russell indulging in cocaine and while I know some people think it makes the mind clear, but there are no real revelations during this long night. Reminded me of another long filmed sequence--that endless wedding reception in Rachel Getting Married. A real misstep.
The chemistry between Russell and Glen's characters goes a long way towards the film's excellence. There is nothing cute, or silly, or humiliating or just plain dumb between these two very likable men. The camera allows you to discover them and the movie is a real gem for it.
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