City Paper is not for tourists
Weekend is the gay Before Sunrise. Like Richard Linklater’s talky 1995 romance, this U.K. film is a series of long conversations between two people who’ve just met and have only a limited amount of time together.
Except Weekend’s chats are punctuated by sex. These guys can chew each other’s ears off metaphorically only so long before they try to do it literally.
Russell (Tom Cullen) is a not-completely-out gay man who decides to hit a club after a party with his straight friends. There he meets Glen (Chris New), whom he expects to be a one-night-stand. But the two are still drawn to each other once the sun shines and hang out for the rest of the weekend. Which might signal the beginning of a promising relationship—if Glen wasn’t about to move to the U.S. for two years, a detail he initially withholds.
For all their seeming hearts-on-their-sleeves chatter, that’s not the only thing Glen keeps from Russell. The angrier of the two men, Glen is raw about a past relationship that Russell is made privy to later at a going-away party. He also seems pissy in general, annoyed at Russell’s semi-closeted lifestyle and his reluctance to take part in Glen’s “art project,” for which he has his lovers talk into a tape recorder about their night together. Russell, meanwhile, is more of a depressive, a former foster child who tends to beat himself up over sexual encounters.
So the pair spend the majority of the 97-minute run time baring their souls. Directed without fanfare by first-timer Andrew Haigh, the film is distinctive in its use of lingering, unpopulated exterior shots, surely meant to symbolize…something. Otherwise, it’s just the two jawing—and pawing—at each other. They do drugs and, in one scene, ride bumper cars in an impromptu visit to a fair. There’s no music, lending the film a naturalistic feel.
It all may sound boring, but there’s a reason people like to eavesdrop. Russell and Glen’s conversations are intimate and more intriguing for it. You don’t know much about these characters, which makes you hungrier for details, especially when they’re reluctant to spill. Newcomers Cullen and New have an easy, if sometimes prickly, rapport, and never seem like they’re delivering prewritten lines. Weekend is that deep, satisfying, well-into-the-night talk you have with someone with whom you’ve just bonded, and you don’t need bells and whistles to improve on that.