Weekend (2011, dir Andrew Haigh)

        “What did you do this weekend?”
                “Nothing much, you?”

Simple questions elicit simple answers. For such a small frame of time, weekends are reserved for rest and relaxation. However, Andrew Haigh’s film, Weekend, attempts to break down the concept of a weekend and how it can be surprisingly filled with experience, almost taking on a life of its own. Russell and Glen, both brilliantly portrayed by Tom Cullen and Chris New, are very different young gay men living in Nottingham, England. Russell, out but not so proud, meets Glen, the out and very loud. They have a one-night stand that slowly turns into an entire weekend full of sex and drugs, teetering between desire and destiny.

Glen, an artist, hopes to create art for gay people that helps them envision the life they are long told they will never have. He is unapologetic and often rude with his words, sounding like a rebellious teen ready to run away from home. Russell, a quiet man who works at a local swimming pool, seems satisfied on the outside looking in on the fun he refuses himself. While out to his friends, Russell keeps quiet about his romantic life to those closest to him. These differences, at first too contrasting to seem compatible, slowly fade away as the weekend progresses and the masks become increasingly difficult to wear in the face of a genuine connection. Russell and Glen discuss marriage, relationships, art, and past sexual encounters all in the wake of their impending separation.

Mostly confined to the spare walls of Russell’s apartment, Haigh’s film never feels claustrophobic. Its nostalgic color palette and controlled aesthetic, a Haigh staple, makes the film feel like a memory. While the two do escape to several other locations, these places are secondary to the conversation flowing between the two men. Even the minor characters mostly rest in the background, swaying along to the music without many lines shared between them.

Much of the power of Haigh’s film lies in its honesty. It is romantic without being too sentimental. It is honest and secretive. With Weekend, Haigh shows off his developing signature style that comes through more fully in his HBO series Looking. Haigh also highlights gay life in England outside London, bringing forth more nuanced conversations of acceptance than would take place in the capital. Nottingham serves as a beautiful medium for the story. It is not a small village, but not yet a big city.

The film ends with John Grant’s song “Marz.” Grant’s music is continually featured in Haigh’s work. The song itself suggests that the weekend these characters fell into might as well be a different planet altogether. Whether or not this time is part of a larger story for Russell and Glen seems irrelevant. Weekend successfully evaluates what it means to spend time with someone you do not truly know. It focuses on the power of sharing, of discussing, and of letting go of temporal expectations in order to live in an infinite weekend.

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