PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — Andrew Haigh’s film “Weekend” is any of the following things: shocking, honest and brave. Call me old-fashioned but I never thought a film which starts in a gay techno club would turn out to be as affective as if Pedro Almodovar or Bernardo Bertulucci had been behind the camera.
“Weekend” follows Russell (Tom Cullen), a young gay man who’s uncomfortable with himself, as he picks up and spends a weekend with Glen (Chris New), who rails against the second-class status of gays in Britain and—as will soon be revealed—is moving to the U.S. in two days. Even though they know nothing can come of their brief encounter, Russell and Glen end up, against their best intentions, falling for each other.
Russell and Glen (and “Weekend” itself) are exceedingly self-aware, constantly questioning their own motivations and how they’re perceived by others (including the audience). There is no sentimentality here, no trying to fit a gay-themed narrative into a straight paradigm (when Russell follows Glen to the train station to see him off, Glen greets him with “Is this your ‘Notting Hill’ moment?”). At the same time, “Weekend” isn’t so cynical that it’s incapable of showing its characters’ feelings for each other. It’s simply unflinchingly honest about Russell and Glen’s lives: everything from their childhoods to their sexual habits is discussed in detail—with an openness that you’d never see in a straight romantic comedy.
This viewing experience was unlike anything I’d ever been to before: there may have been one or two other women in the audience, but I didn’t see them. Of course, seeing this film in gay-mecca Provincetown is like preaching to the choir. A scene early on in Weekend when Glen wears a Provincetown T-shirt brought a burst of joyous giggles from everyone present. But it could be that the men in the audience were both analyzing “Weekend” critically as well as seeing their own experiences in it. At the end, there was appreciative applause, but it was muted—it was clear that everybody left the theater with lots of thinking to do.
As “Weekend” does the rounds of the festival circuit (it premiered at SXSW) successfully, let’s hope a distribution deal is reached–this movie’s a must-see.