Monday, 9 January 2012
FILM REVIEW: WEEKEND
While Weekend owes a minor debt to the lo-fi, two-hander films Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) - Richard Linklater's wonderful walk-and-talk pieces about possible soul mates, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke - writer-director Andrew Haigh's second feature is very much an original, and arguably far more emotionally resonant.
When out on a Friday night, Russell (Tom Cullen) meets Glen (Chris New), or we assume he does. We don't witness the meet-cute but the pair wake up the next morning in Russell's bed. The previous night is a bit of a blur to them both, although Glen distinctly remembers rescuing Russell "from Gollum", a less than attractive potential pick-up.
Glen is an artist, and just happens to have brought along his dictaphone, hoping to involve Russell in an impromptu interview for a project he's working on. Russell, not surprisingly, is reticent at first; he's reserved by nature as opposed to Glen's more forthright demeanour. They are polar opposites, but could they also be soul mates?
What begins as a one night stand quickly takes on another dimension; the pair agreeing to meet up after Russell's shift at the local aquatic centre - where he works as a lifeguard and endures the lunch room sex talk of his straight co-workers (presumably Russell isn't out to all) - where a night-in with food, wine, drugs, sex and lots of conversation ensues.
Gay or straight, audiences shouldn't have trouble identifying with the characters and situations in Weekend. Haigh, who also edited Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000), deals with a universe of emotion which is less about sexuality - though it is refreshing to see three dimensional gay characters front and centre - and more about connection.
Newcomers Tom Cullen and Chris New give perfectly realised performances: subtlely nuanced, full of humour and heart, and real. Cullen's Russell is a quiet man whose sexuality is not his defining feature; New's Glen is, by comparison, an extrovert who believes everything one says and does is a statement if not necessarily a political one.
Whether that statement is a declaration of love is tempered somewhat, as is the couple's entire weekend, by the imminent departure of Glen; he's heading to the U.S. where he's enrolled in a two-year arts course, leaving that Sunday evening. Will he go? Will he stay? Will love prevail?
Weekend is not a rom-com, and Andrew Haigh isn't interested in pat, audience-comforting resolutions; real life is never that simple. But I, for one, would be eager for Haigh, Cullen and New to revisit Russell and Glen in the near future, a la Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Another Weekend, perhaps?
*Also screening as part of the 2012 Mardi Gras Film Festival