Director: Andrew Haigh (UK). Year of Release: 2011
Russell is late for the party – he usually is. This time he’s had a late shift. But, finally, here he is: beard, flat cap and all. After a while, he decides he’s had enough and tells the host that he needs to go – he’s had too much weed and needs to work in the morning. On his way home, he stops off at a bar, where he stands drinking on his own. By the end of the evening he’s in the arms of a young man.
The next morning, Glen – the young man – reminds Russell that he’d agreed to take part in Glen’s art project. Russell is not so sure – he’s very hazy about exactly what happened the previous night, but in the end he demurs. Glen brings out his tape recorder and – after a little prompting – Russell describes last night’s encounter.
This is a chore for Russell – he’s much less secure about his sexuality than Glen is – but something clicks, and although Glen seems to have a preference for one night stands, they continue to see each other over the week-end. They part for a while, when Russell goes to the local swimming pool where he works as a life guard, but Glen is waiting for him when he finishes work.
They go back to Russell’s, but then Glen has to go home for a while. Ten seconds later, there’s a knock on the door. It’s Glen again. “Oh, by the way, I’m flying to Portland, Oregan tomorrow for a two year art course.” Glen is due to get a train to the station at 4.30pm on Sunday. In the daytime, Russell is at a birthday party for his god daughter, whose father is his oldest friend. As he’s obviously distracted the friend asks what’s wrong then offers to drive him to the station.
The difference between real life and films, most films anyway, is that films are edited so that we only witness the scenes which drive the plot forward. Let’s just say that Weekend contains many scenes which do not drive the plot forward. As Russell and Glen get to know each other, they exchange those little fleeting moments which only a pair who are newly in love can fully appreciate. Which is a bit of a shame for the rest of us.
Nowhere does the film drag more than on Saturday night when Russell and Glen take various drugs together. Now I’ve absolutely nothing against drug use, but there’s nothing more boring than being trapped in a room with two people who find each other fascinating because they’ve taken roughly the same amount of drugs as each other. Drug taking before seeing this type of film should be compulsory.
The fact that Weekend does not edit out the boring bits is a big shame, as it is by no means universally dull. Glen explains his art project which is based on his theory that everybody lies and never more so than when talking about sex. This is particularly the case for LGBT people as gay sex has become so stigmatized by society. Glen believes that speaking more and more loudly about sleeping with men, he is making a blow for liberation.
Glen is also outspoken about other subjects, although his arguments are hardly innovational. Gay marriage is just accepting heterosexual norms and is an act of accepting your own repression. Monogamy is unnatural. The idea that someone like him should settle down with one partner is just an attempt to chain him to society. (This is when Russell accuses Glen of arguing like a teenager).
While these statements are not particularly interesting in themselves, it is telling to see their effect on Russell. It is hard to tell whether Russell is offended by Glen trashing his dreams of some day settling down with Mr. Right, or that this is something more personal – that he sees the start of something lasting here, which will be destroyed if Glen takes that flight to Portland. Either way, it produces a discomfort that fuels the drama.
Russell asks Glen if he is happy, then doesn’t believe him when he says he is. For himself, Russell finds the idea of happiness something that works better in theory than practise. His whole life is one of denial. At work he listens to colleagues “bantering” about how many fingers they put up someone’s cunt last night. He is out with his best friend, but of course they don’t talk about “that”.
All this means that Weekend provides moments of great enlightenment interspersed with prolonged phases of boredom (more for the audience than the characters). The fact that it contains discussions about modern gay life is obviously a great plus, but there just aren’t enough of these to make this an unmissable film. It’s not bad, but neither is it that great.