Weekend

Glen is an artist doing an audio profile on the other men he’s slept with. It’s not about sex, he explains, but a project on identity and uncertainty with personal transparency. “Straight people won’t come because it’s not their world.” This film on the other hand most certainly is.

“Weekend” is the most honest, intelligent and heartwarming romance of the year. It’s the delicate, touching story of two gay men who meet, have sex, talk and fall in love in one weekend.

The film by Andrew Haigh has been called the gay “Before Sunset” with its open book screenplay and two affectionate, stirring individuals discovering themselves. And while its homosexuality is its defining characteristic, this is a universal love story and bond between a couple whose insecurities, tensions, emotions and thoughts naturally blossom.

Russell (Tom Cullen) is the initially hesitant one. He’s normal and sociable at a party with straight friends, but he walks alone down alleys to a gay bar he doesn’t care for. He awkwardly checks out people in the bathroom because he doesn’t know how better to show his personality.

When he wakes up besides Glen (Chris New), he’s nervous to be recorded describing their intercourse. Glen seems too open, shouting out the window in his underpants at passersby 14 floors below. His blunt confidence creates “Weekend’s” first instance of authentic pillow talk.

And yet the roles are changed before long. Russell offers Glen a ride on the back of his road bike, and Glen is the uncomfortable one. What’s more, Glen seems really sensitive about bringing up that he’ll be leaving to study in America the next day. This sudden introduction of distance into this spur-of-the-moment relationship complicates their fling even further. It’s a familiar theme, but it’s subtly and wonderfully executed.

Intellectual, open, humorous, sporadic, insightful and never heavy conversations flow gracefully throughout the screenplay. Glen and Russell are genuinely warm companions, and New and Cullen have about the best screen chemistry of any couple in 2011. We warm to them so completely because the film is touchingly specific in their characteristics.

The minimal camera movement and editing as these two individuals sort out their identities together is made convincingly stark and passionate by a sudden outburst of busy cinematography. And as Russell and Glen leave the confines of their home, the framing in bars and on subways is so cluttered and clouded it becomes immediately clear that the bonds and conversations we form in such situations don’t offer the clarity and meaning of this love.

“Weekend” displays a perfect balance of growth and insecurities in its two characters. Neither is developed more, neither is one-dimensional nor a conventional stereotype and neither is without a tender affectation.

Although they insightfully and civilly debate homosexual politics such as the right to marriage and a heterosexual bias in the media driven world, their victory comes in the form of an open window and the sharing of love between two strangers.

I can’t think of a more simple, perfect and soothing romance.

4 stars

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