A romantic drama about two men from Newcastle who fall in love and barely leave each other’s sides for a weekend – it will not immediately draw full houses. Written, directed and edited by Andrew Haigh, however, 2011’s “Weekend” deserves a large audience. Romantic love has rarely been portrayed so authentically. The theme of this film goes far beyond the standard “gay issues”. Love is universal, so is romance and affection. “Weekend” is about two lonely people who know how to find each other and who click, even though their meeting lasts only briefly, as the title suggests. The fact that this happens to be two men is irrelevant on the one hand, but still crucial for the film on the other.
Russell’s (Tom Cullen) life is not very exciting. He works as a lifeguard in the local swimming pool, lives in a simple flat and has many friends. His best friend is his foster brother Jamie, the only one he’s told he likes men. To the outside world, Russell keeps quiet. That he doesn’t dare to be himself makes him lonely. After avoiding difficult questions for another evening, he dives into a gay bar. There he bumps into Glen (Chris New) and the spark jumps immediately. The two end up in bed together. On the surface it looks like a one night stand, but when Glen takes out a tape recorder before he leaves to have Russell tell about his experiences (he wants to turn it into an art project), the two get to know each other better, whether or not they want to.
What starts out as a night of wild sex takes on more and more depth and meaning. Russell and Glen have completely different lives. One still does not dare to openly express his sexuality, the other literally shouts it from the rooftops. Where the romantic Russell is looking for true love and a serious relationship, Glen is bitter by past experiences. He doesn’t believe in relationships. Haigh does touch on some socially critical issues that homosexuals encounter, but avoids turning his film into a political pamphlet. The connection between two people is the common thread here. That is why “Weekend” is a genre-crossing drama that deserves an audience outside the gay community. Great strength is the credibility and authenticity of the characters and their mutual relationship. Sex scenes are not shunned, but are a perfectly logical continuation of the events before and are a genuine expression of love. It’s also nice that the situation is not made more romantic than it is. Here too, Haigh approaches his story in a realistic and down-to-earth manner.
A relationship drama stands or falls with strong acting. “Weekend” is being carried by two great newcomers, of whom we will no doubt be hearing a lot more. Both Cullen and New are completely credible in their roles. Cullen is the sympathetic and sensitive Russell, who makes a somewhat melancholy impression. Behind his sometimes somewhat dreamy gaze hides a world of emotions. He is looking for a soul mate, someone with whom he can build a relationship as the outside world expects him to do. New plays the seemingly self-assured Glen, who has cast armor out of self-defense so as not to get hurt. Both use (soft) drugs to forget their loneliness and ease their pain. Their mutual attraction is credible. These lifelike characters carry the film with verve. You are going to care about them and hope that they will stay together forever.
“Weekend” certainly provides food for thought. About what certain expectations do to people and how people are always put in boxes. Above all, however, this is a realistic portrait of two people who find together the love, affection and commitment they have been looking for for so long. The film is heartwarming without being sentimental and knows how to appeal to romantics of all kinds. Whatever your orientation is. “Weekend” definitely deserves a big audience!