SXSW Review: Audience Award-Winner Weekend Is a Refreshing, Realistic Romance

By Matt Patches 2011-03-18 15:11:50discussion comments
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SXSW Review: Audience Award-Winner Weekend Is a Refreshing, Realistic Romance image
The morning after their first night together, Glen, an artist, interviews the timid Russell, a lifeguard, on the events of the previous night; meeting at the club and, eventually, ending up at Russell's apartment. Glen mentions the recording is part of a project tackling the subject of gay romance and sex -- an endeavor he realizes is futile and, realistically, no one will pay to see. Glenn thinks people, straight or gay, don't want to hear/see/talk about the homosexual experience.

Glen's theory explains why, perhaps, it's taken so long for a film like Weekend to come around. Director Andrew Haigh's second feature follows the two gay men as they embark on a complicated and emotional romance that evolves from a one night stand to something deeper in a short three-day stint. Weekend pulls off what so many try and few achieve: an honest relationship.

The movie world has found a way to paint dramatic gay characters into archetypes. When was the last time we saw a gay role that wasn't the open-eared best friend or the closeted lead looking to spill the beans? Weekend abandons those tropes in favor of sculpting its two leads into three-dimensional characters.

Surrounded by the judgmental eyes of the world around them, Russell and Glenn (both out) have their own problems. Russell has reservations of showing affection in public and making a big deal of his lifestyle. Glenn is incredibly distrustful of men who get close to him and the idea of "love" as anything but a comfort zone. They're human beings who happened to be gay, struggling and finding solace in each other. We've seen it before, but the circumstances make it refreshing.

The film takes an approach similar to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, relying on Russell and Glenn's conversations, secrets and revelations to propel the action forward. Haigh directs the film with carefully composed shots that allow the actors to naturally drift in and out of frame, giving the duo's frank dialogue and unrestrained sex scenes a powerful and raw expression. And it's not a lovefest -- a night out at a bar leads Russell and Glenn back to the apartment for a round of pot smoking, coke snorting and personal confessions. All the lows and highs (and then some) of relationships are crammed into this short window, making it incredibly relatable.

Weekend feels edgy with its presentation of the subject matter, but it's not -- and that's a compliment. It's an unpretentious film about love and it evens out the playing field from the saturated market of straight couple romances that flood multiplexes. We never see honest homosexual relationships on the big screen, which is reason enough to check out Weekend.
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