On a Friday night after hanging out with his straight mates, Russell (Tom Cullen) heads out to a nightclub. Just before closing time he picks up Glen (Chris New). And so begins a weekend - in bars and in bedrooms, getting drunk and taking drugs, telling stories and having sex. By the end of the two days, their casual encounter has assumed an important new significance.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Made with all the technical disadvantages of a home movie - dirty and confusing sound recording, sloppy camerawork (but here it's intentional, meant to look arty) and no music apart from occasional source music (eg at party, nightclub) - Andrew Haigh's Weekend is the sort of film you make when you ignore Hitchcock's dictum about drama being life .... with the dull bits cut out. Intended as a raw, naturalistic and voyeuristic film about two homosexuals on the first stage of a relationship they didn't expect, the film peters out even before it begins.
Drained of dramatic tension until over half way through, the question we are given to drive whatever interest we have in the characters is whether one will stick to his plans to go to America (Portland, to be precise) to study obtuse art. This would work better if we cared. If we cared about either of the characters or if we cared about their relationship. But we don't.
Their relationship has consisted of talking about gay sex and a bit of drink and drugs; these do not register deeply as insights to character. Or rather, they suggest very little of it. They're not people who happen to be gay; they're gay cutouts who are not quite fully formed people. It's as if the characters being homosexual alone justifies such a slight premise for a film.
Weekend is basically a conversation that begins after their first sex together, interrupted by a couple of party scenes. The conversation is largely banal, and when it isn't it's almost impossible to decipher the words.
Too often we feel the filmmaker is looking to create an effect rather than dig into the psyche. Too often we struggle to connect with the film as it shrinks further and further into its own world. Whatever insights and interest may lurk in the film's heart, they are shielded from my eyes. Perhaps others will get a glimpse.
Review by Louise Keller:
In an intimate exploration of its central relationship, this boy meets boy story addresses all the issues of being gay and meets them head on. Essentially a two hander with strong performances from Tom Cullen and Chris New, Andrew Haigh's film gives a poignant insight into the lives of two men who meet when each is contemplating his future.
The only trouble is, they want different things. With its fly-on-the-wall approach, the film takes us into this very private world with no holds barred; the target market may be limited to gay audiences who will no doubt embrace the film.
When the film begins, we meet Russell (Cullen) at a party with friends. It is after he has left the party, intoxicated by booze and drugs, that he goes to a gay bar. Then the evening begins in earnest. It is there he meets Glen (New) and they spend the night together. We get to know them both over morning coffee in the bedroom, when incidental chit chat turns to something a little more intimate. Glen gets Russell to participate in his 'art project', asking him to talk into his tape recorder and relate his feelings about what happened the night before and whether it was what he had wanted. Through Russell's frank comments, we revisit the evening.
As the weekend progresses, the two men spend more time together and it is as though nothing and no-one exists in the world except the two of them. Glen is clearly comfortable with his homosexuality, whereas Russell displays shyness and self-consciousness. They talk about their jobs, about their upbringing and about being gay. By the time Glen reveals he is leaving Notting Hill the following day to spend two years in Portland, we understand that he aspires to create a new version of himself. The shot that shows Russell, a lifeguard, at work standing under the sign Deep End, summarises Russell's position.
Haigh has also edited the film and uses locked off shots - on the couch, at the window, on the tube and in bed - to show the two men locked in their own world. These seem staged. Although there are graphic sex scenes with some front nudity, it is the intense intimacy that some may find confronting. The fact that the film has a theatrical release is perhaps indicative of changing times, although its hardcore audience will always be limited.
First published in the Sun-Herald.
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CAST: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Laura Freeman, Vauxhall Jermaine
PRODUCER: Tristan Goligher
DIRECTOR: Andrew Haigh
SCRIPT: Andrew Haigh
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Urszula Pontikos
EDITOR: Andrew Haigh
MUSIC: James Edward Barker
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Finlay
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 26, 2012