After reading A.O. Scott’s stellar review of director Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, I was determined to see it, well, this weekend. A British movie about two guys who meet on a Friday night and spend the weekend together? It reminded me a bit of the incredibly sweet Beautiful Thing. I’m all about a good gay movie, so I scoured online looking for theaters to see it, but, as a small movie it’s still playing only in Los Angeles and New York City, with a San Diego premiere not until mid-October. I resigned myself to not being able to see Weekend for a few more weeks, and I decided satisfy my movie needs at home with an On Demand search for something good, if not great, and maybe not even gay.
And that’s when I came across it — Weekend is available On Demand through my cable company. Given their limited budgets, I know some independent movies have simultaneous theater/On Demand premieres (it happened with Red State, too), and after confirming that this Weekend was the one I’d been lusting after, I ordered it as soon as my fingers could press “Buy.”
Here’s the story: On a regular Friday night, Russell leaves his friend’s party and stops by a gay bar on his way home. There, he meets Glen, and they go home together. Russell, portrayed by Tom Cullen, is quiet-ish and not entirely out. Glen, played by Chris New, is out, political, and, at times, confrontational. Although strangers, they do share a history of being gay, even if they differ on what that means to each of them. But where Beautiful Thing is a sweet gay coming-of-age story, Weekend is a thoughtful and disarming exploration of what gay men do to find connection to each other and the changing world around them.
I kept waiting for a coincidental run-in to propel the plot in a new direction or a lost letter to unveil a shocking new truth. But Weekend resists the temptation to travel the comfortable route of a conventional onscreen love story. Instead, it possesses the kind of patient storytelling that is necessary to uncover the camouflaged questions we all carry with us. Am I enough? What are we supposed to do? How do we do it? True to its honesty, the movie doesn’t provide any answers, but it does visually represent the questions we, as gay men, daily ask ourselves without ever quite being aware of it. I’ve had weekends like this. I’ve talked about weekends like this. I’ve thought about weekends like this.
As much as I understood that the movie had been written and directed and edited, watching it I had the sense that it was unfolding, happening. As a one-night stand turns into a day and then a weekend together, the gentle and, occasionally, rough verbal give-and-take between Russell and Glen as they feel each other out emotionally is precisely how two people get to know each other. It’s the interactive shorthand we all use to probe the delicate internal places that both shelter and present who we are.
And the sex between Russell and Glen is shown as naturally as I’ve ever seen it onscreen. No carefully placed bed linens covering the groin or underwear coyly appearing, and the gay sex is just that — gay. Without apology or explanation. And when the sex turns tender, it’s still graphic without being pornographic. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen two people, gay or straight, have onscreen sex so organically and honestly. How could this ever be wrong?
Of course, Weekend is not strictly a gay movie since, like all great movies, it transcends its own story. The movie embodies the tacit hope we all have that a chance encounter can not only change our lives, but make our lives more meaningful. But with a story set within a modern gay landscape, I’m betting that every gay adult who watches this movie will hear a ping of connection and feel a tingle of immediate recognition that lets us know that we have been, and are being, seen.