Movie Review - Weekend (2011)

Tom Cullen (left) & Chris New
in "Weekend (2011)"
British filmmaker Andrew Haigh is conducting an art project. How he decided to do it was by creating a character named Glen who is also conducting an art project. The project is simple yet powerful. His project is to get gay men to talk openly about their sexuality and have it be recorded on tape. He then wants to share those tapes with the world.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the world, it would prefer not to talk about gay sex. Straight people certainly don't want to talk about it and sometimes gay people don't want to talk about it either. Sometimes, it takes someone to force the conversation, and Glen is that someone. By extension, so is Haigh. Only he's doing with his camera what Glen is trying to do with his tape recorder.

Comparisons to Before Sunrise have been made. I understand because that's probably the best example in the past 20 years of a movie that does what this movie does. It's a movie that takes place in a short amount of time that consists mainly of two people talking with romantic under tones. Yet, Before Sunrise was a mainstream, heterosexual film and therefore naturally got more attention, which is part of Haigh's point. Of the handful of critics who have reviewed Weekend, I feel like a small few, if any, are aware of the numerous amount of gay films that have been produced over the course of the last ten years.

I'd instead compare this movie to Ciao, another story that takes place in a short amount of time, two days really, that consists mainly of two people talking with romantic under tones. More appropriately, those two people are gay men. Ciao did get a theatrical release in 2008, which is odd because most movies made dealing with gay themes lately play at film festivals only and, if they're lucky, get a DVD release.

If a gay movie doesn't get a theatrical release, the mainstream press usually ignores it. Ciao wasn't totally ignored. It didn't get the best reviews, but it was structured no differently from this. It had a more elegiac tone with a passion that was bubbling beneath the surface, whereas Weekend wears its passion on its sleeve.

For example, Ciao didn't depict any sexual activity. It didn't even really show any skin. Weekend, conversely, doesn't take long before showing Glen totally nude. Haigh also teases with bare torsos every now and then in his movie. In fact, because of its intense physical scenes along with its intense and frank conversations, Weekend is easily the sexiest movie of the year.

Not to say Weekend is better than Ciao, but its differences are notable. The most ostensible is its style. Ciao is a steady forward, quiet drama. Weekend looks as if it's a documentary, not in its camerawork, which Haigh carefully renders, even in moments you think he's not, but in its performances from Chris New who plays Glen as well as from Tom Cullen who plays Russell. Both these actors, especially Cullen, are so natural and everything they do feels so fresh and real.

But, for Haigh, there are some nice writing and directing touches that really get at the heart of the emotions here. Haigh even plays with some conventions or tropes from romantic comedies and doesn't subvert them, as one might expect. He instead adds depth and more dimension.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.


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