in honor of pride month, we take a look at one of the best lgbt movies of the decade, andrew haigh’s weekend.
It’s hard to think of queer cinema this decade without mentioning movie weekend. Until Moonlight captured the collective consciousness of moviegoers and the general public alike, the defining film in the LGBT cinematic canon dates back to Andrew Haigh’s masterpiece. but why did this small and intimate film with only two characters rank so high in the history of queer cinema? well, aside from the lack of high profile gay movies, haigh shows us a gay relationship with an understanding of the dynamics of a gay relationship.
unlike doomed love stories of the past like brokenback mountain or, more recently, carol, the weekend presents a story with no risk other than a lost connection. russell (tom cullen) is the character from which we see the story. and the background to him is one that only lgbt people can really understand. there is a strange limbo between being outside and fully accepting your identity. Some people fully accept their identity before coming out to those closest to them. Russell can’t fully accept himself, even when he’s surrounded by his closest friends embracing him: Jamie from Jonathan Race is a general understudy for this group. For Russell, like many other gay men, he finds safety and comfort in gay clubs, where he goes after spending time with his “straight friends.” One night, he runs into Glen (Chris New), an art student. The two men go home together, and the next morning, after they have sex, Glen asks Russell if she can record him talking about their night together for an art project. afterward, the two exchange numbers and go their separate ways. The next day, Russell invites Glen to meet again. from there, the two engage in a weekend-long conversation that eventually leads to the coming-of-age that both characters sorely needed.
the weekend is a meditation on moments. there are no grand romantic gestures or ridiculous ultimatums. however, the film’s central conflict is an impending departure. its greatest virtue is its realism. Very rarely in relationships today do we say what we feel. so two men with a mutual attraction who want it to become more won’t explicitly address that feeling. instead, haigh hides that development in the little moments: a touch, a look of familiarity or understanding. as the two men see each other more, each sexual encounter becomes more explicit: their first connection is not shown on screen. It’s Haigh’s way of showing his growing intimacy and perhaps her love.
The weekend has often been hailed as a gay romance that isn’t necessarily about being gay. and yes, if you remove those elements, the movie might still survive. however, the characters’ sexuality is rooted in the story as much as their identity. like i said before, russell’s character is struggling with her identity. It is not until he meets Glen that he is forced to confront his identity. Glen, on the other hand, is frustrated by the heteronormativity in our society and vocalizes that dissatisfaction often and loudly. While Russell fades into the background every time the subject comes up, even when he’s talked about around him, he shrinks back into himself, Glen takes it on. it’s what helps both characters grow. Russell grapples with his identity while Glen realizes he’s not beholden to stereotypes.
In a touching scene later in the film, Glen allows Russell to get close to him, an opportunity he didn’t get with his parents. it is a quiet and unassuming scene that is filmed without theatricality. however, the emotional impact is palpable. it is a time of unspoken understanding and growth. that’s what makes the weekend so effective. Haigh doesn’t need to throw plots or themes in your face. the realistic, conversational dialogue does all the heavy lifting for the film. nothing really happens. but, at the same time, everything does. There have been bigger stories and flashier movies, but I always find myself going back to the weekend. he is escapist in his own unique way. You can’t help but dive into Glen and Russell’s conversation the same way you did with Jesse and Celine in the previous trilogy. that’s because, somehow, you can see yourself in them. be it a moment or a feeling. or maybe a place or a line. anyone who has ever fallen in love can see when other people are falling in love. the weekend allows you to witness two people open up and discover each other on a level that can only be described as falling. And I swear you won’t be able to stop smiling about it.
★★★★½ of 5
weekend is available in hd digital on amazon!