This is part of a series examining art house releases in 2011.
Watching Weekend is like watching a home run in slow motion. Andrew Haigh’s 2011 film, his second feature to-date, is a big muscular talky. It’s a simple premise played heartily: two very different gay men, very drawn to one another, talk, flirt, kiss and think over the course of a weekend- the same weekend they first meet.
I say that they’re very different from one another as as a form of endorsement. I shouldn’t have to say it, but LGBT individuals still live (on screen) in the purgatory of caricature. Gay men, while enjoying the most representation, still have a long way to go as far as representation. They can be this, or they can be that.
The shopping, fag-hags, lilting lisps: all absent here. Moving on:
The film pulls off the difficult trick of housing, within itself, the explicit discussion of ideas. These guys are liable to argue about representation while just hanging around the kitchen. If that sounds boring, it’s not. The trick is that you love Haigh’s twin protagonists immediately. And, as in life, they draw their beliefs about the way the world works (or should work) from very, very personal experiences. Learning about those is the whole journey of Weekend.
So much happens in this movie. In the discussion of ideas mentioned above, dialogue becomes action. The characters speak from their hearts (rooted in ways you’ll understand intuitively before you do concretely) and so force themselves into the world with words. They have presence, and take action, with what they choose to say.
The reason I get so excited about this: it’s the way actual, living-breathing, 21st century people take action in the world too. We talk to one-another. We’re talking to one-another, in fact, all the time.
I will say that there’s an uncomfortable struggle to wrap-up what is essentially a bottomless narrative with a neat, commercial bow. But you forgive the writer-director that. He’s got one foot in the uncannily real lives of his characters (the faux-documentary hand-held camera work seems to be the most shoed-in, insincere thing about this reality) and the other in the world of the cinematic romance. That he doesn’t topple into sentimentalism is so admirable that I’ll forgive him his urge to tie things up. It works in its own way.
As far as nestling the film into an increasingly global art house tradition: it’s not contemplative. Okay, it’s not usually contemplative (the scene of Russell at work– he’s a lifeguard at the local pool– is great, steady, and contemplative.) But it does slash bravely across traditions, offering a new way to be a movie. The slice-of-life has never yielded such a palatable mix of likability, contemporaneity, comment, argument, soul, realism, wit… I gush.
And anyway, if it isn’t a stylistic revolution, it’s a big meal.
Weekend is streaming on Netflix.