Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: "Weekend"

Another of my random Netflix finds, Weekend follows the story of a young man named Russel who meets another young man at a club one Friday.  Drunk and hungry they stumble into bed together and wake up to find they may have more in common than they think.

There is something very direct about the style of this film that I really enjoyed.  Even from the first moments of Russel's getting prepared to meet up with his friends (all of whom, we come to understand, are straight) you can see the uneasiness.  His discomfort is not only shown through his actions and behaviour but through the pitch of the camera.  We feel almost voyeuristic in this endeavour, indeed much of the film is shot as though the camera simply sneaked into a private moment and has gotten stuck.  Slightly off-centre and wobbly shots are intermingled with long, drawn out static views of Russel at work, or walking home from the bus.

As Russel, lead Tom Cullen is incredibly engaging almost from his first moments onscreen.  It certainly helps that he's scruffy and vaguely uncoiffed in a way that makes you want to take care of him but more than that his somewhat innocent take on life is endearing and certainly much more accessible (read familiar) than Glen's take no prisoners attitude towards sexuality.  Glen, being Russel's object of desire, is remarkably off-putting at the start of the film.  Whether on purpose or not when we first meet Glen he is somewhat obnoxious and very outspoken.  Certainly none of the ideas he's spouting are radical, though perhaps unfamiliar to some.  It is his manner that offends in these first scenes, and yet we come to see him (as the film progresses) through the eyes of Russel, which allows us to at first come to terms with, and then even grow to like Glen.

The film follows the new lovers over the course of their first (and fated to be last) weekend together and that urgency lends an emotional weight, helping to ground the otherwise vignette style scenes in the movie.  By creating a time frame in which these two can exist Writer/Director/Editor Andrew Haigh raises the emotional stakes in a way that allows his characters to live a much truer experience.  I appreciated the complexity and faith with which these characters were treated, and felt that the emotional payoff at the end was well timed and executed.

While I can't say that this film gave me a better understanding of what it's like to be a gay man, I can certainly say it gave me a better perspective on what it might be like to be Russel, a gay man in London.  Many of the issues raised by both Russel and Glen in the film are weighty and I felt the filmmakers did a good job of pointing them out and not giving easy solutions.

Ultimately the pacing is slow (but to me just right) so if you're not into quiet and thoughtful films chances are this ones not for you.  Of course, if you're a fan of films like Lost in Translation then this may be one to check out.

My rating: 3.5 out of 4

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