Following Andrew Haigh’s debut, Greek Pete (Haigh, 2009), comes this assured and poignant romantic drama about two men who have a one-night stand, but unexpectedly over the space of a weekend, their time together blossoms into something more, something intimate and special.
After leaving his best mates house party, Russell (Tom Cullen) decides that instead of going home, he fancies hitting a club and it’s here that he hooks-up with Glen (Chris New).
Refreshingly, these are not the stereotypical representations of gay men – or gay masculinity – that the majority of film watchers will be used to. Neither of the characters are particularly feminised, nor are they overly camp and there are absolutely no painful glances between Denham-clad cowboys, resisting their “unnatural urges”. Quite simply, this is a depiction of two ‘average’ guys, who just happen to be gay. When I describe them as ‘average’, that isn’t because they adhere to my heterosexual disposition, these characters are not defined solely by their sexuality, they are people first, with complex emotions and sensibilities. Haigh as the film’s writer deserves high praise for crafting such wonderfully realised characters. This is a ‘gay’ film, but its crux is not the character’s sexuality, the film’s real strength lies in our investment in Russell and Glen’s romantic journey; gay or straight, it is the film’s masterful narrative, which will captivate all who watch it.
Russell and Glen are not camp cliches, but nevertheless, their characters are grounded in familiar, but realistic stereotypes, or what’s accepted as gay stereotypes. For example; Russell is not ashamed of being gay, all his friends know, but neither does he want to kiss Glen goodbye, the morning after the night before – where his neighbours and the world can see. These events are cleverly juxtaposed by a heterosexual couple in the same situation, they kiss goodbye without hesitation. Russell claims not to be ashamed that he’s gay, but he does his best to shield that information from the heterosexual world. However, Russell’s attitude alludes to one of the film’s key messages, about how society at large is predisposed to conform to heterosexuality. Suggesting society itself demands us to be straight, that to be anything but, is to be defined as ‘other’, ergo not ‘normal’.
Glen’s character juxtaposes Russell’s because he’s the ‘loud and proud gay’, but once again the film is quick to dispel any notion of clichÃ©, his character is loud, and proud, but he’s also angry. He’s angry that society is so predisposed to being ‘straight’, he’s an angry young man motivated by the oppressive society that he and the gay community are subjected to.
Weekend briskly runs by as Russell and Glen spend their 48 hours together, but there’s a sting in the tale, an opportunity awaits one of the men which will seemingly halt their romance for good. The film’s conclusion is heart-breaking, delivered with restraint and emotion by the film’s two marvellous leads, but like the rest of the film, it is poignant, realistic, and even haunting.
Andrew Haigh is a British director with a bright future and Weekend is without doubt, the best British film of 2012. Miss this wonderful piece of Gay British cinema, at your peril, because there is absolutely nothing stereotypical about it.
Weekend is available on DVD & Blu-Ray to buy and rent.
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