"Weekend" is such a delicate, modest little love story that even writing about it seems like it'll ruin the movie's spell. It's a slight film and hardly groundbreaking, but it's so lovely that you almost feel protective of it. Just like you want its main couple to find love with each other, you don't want anyone's snark ripping this sweet film to shreds. And I hope at some point in the future the most "interesting" thing about "Weekend" isn't that it's a gay love story. Maybe eventually people will just like it because it's a good love story, period.
Directed, written and edited by Andrew Haigh, "Weekend" will feel reminiscent of "Before Sunrise" or any other indie drama in which the main characters fall for each other in a compact amount of time. In this case, it's Russell (Tom Cullen), a young U.K. man who on a Friday has a drunken one-night stand with Glen (Chris New), who the following morning wants to tape-record Russell's impressions about the hookup. At first, it seems like there's no future for these two, but Russell ends up calling Glen, which leads to them spending the rest of the weekend together.
There's more to the movie than that, but I don't want to say anymore. That's all I knew going in, and I think it's sufficient. It's not that there are big, juicy twists, but "Weekend" is a movie in which you want to discover the characters as they're discovering each other. And we learn things about them from their conversations, which have a real sparkle without feeling "written." We start to understand how, if these two ended up together, their dynamic would work. One is a little sweeter and softer, while the other is a little more impish and high-strung. You can see Russell and Glen as a couple, but you can also see how they might drive each other nuts. It's hard to know for sure which way it might go; a new love is so incredibly tenuous that way.
As it made its way around the festival circuit earlier this year, "Weekend" was heralded, rightfully so, but of course it had to be labeled a "gay romance" in the process, as if that's what makes it special. But while I understand the impulse -- overtly gay love stories (with sex scenes) are pretty rare in even the independent film world -- I fear that will keep some people from giving "Weekend" a try. The insecurities and emotions at play are pretty universal, and Haigh's narrative structure is actually pretty conventional when you get right down to it.
And yet, there is something meaningful about the fact that the movie features gay characters. Without being too obvious about it, Haigh does use Russell and Glen as mouthpieces for the oppression gays and lesbians can feel in "normal" society. Beyond just the simple name-calling and bigotry, these characters have to live in a world where their desires have to always take a backseat to those of straights, whether it's through TV shows or movies or advertizing. "Weekend" doesn't make its characters martyrs, but it gives you a glimpse into how much harder love can be when you feel like you're existing on the margins of life. It's poignant without being self-pitying.
If "Weekend" can be faulted, it's simply that it's so slight it doesn't quite build to anything truly extraordinary. That's by design: Haigh doesn't want his characters to represent The State Of Gay Relations, he just wants them to be Russell and Glen. And that's enough. Cullen and New are both quite good -- natural and relaxed -- and while their fumblings with love aren't exactly new, they're handled with real care. On some level, Haigh knows that these guys' story isn't all that special or unique. But in its quiet way, "Weekend" argues that, really, nobody's love story really is -- unless it's yours.