Dir. Andrew Haigh. UK. 2010.

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Renowned editor of Gladiator, Haigh breaks out with his feature debut that tells the romantic coupling of a young gay couple in surburban Nottingham, Russell (Tom Cullen) is a little bit down at a friend's party and having said he would go home stops in a gay bar on the way home hoping to boost his esteem, there he indulges in a one-night stand with Glen (Chris New), a would be artist who is extremely more self-confident than the less introverted Russell.
Russell wakes up and makes coffee, and in a clever bit of editing and directing, we do not know if it is Glen (the guy he had his eye on) or the unfortunate hobbit we last saw Russell talking to whilst Glen watched. From there, Russell and Glen start talking about life, work, the size of each other's penis. Russell leaves for his work as a lifeguard, Glen meets him after his shift finishes and they talk some more. Glen asks if Russell is out to his parents, from this we learn that Russell is an orphan, and that the friends he was with at the start of the film is Jamie his life-long friend who is supportive of his lifestyle.
They then engage in some lovemaking on the sofa, Glen invites Russell to a party that evening - a bon voyage party as Glen is leaving for Oregon to study conceptual art. The inevitability of his leaving and the time constraints thrust upon the characters by the film's title means that the constriction of time allows a full blossoming of the relationship to take hold of you.
Unlike other gay films, the film does not over-do the explicitness of the film's overt sexuality, here you have two men coming to terms with their sexuality and the difficulty after having come out; at times you forget that it is two gay men talking but instead two people conversing about the difficulty of their relationship and feelings. This is a credit to the openness of the performances by the two leads Cullen and New, who embue a sense of naturalism into the roles, Cullen all full of guilt and confusion, whilst New handles the extrovert Glen well, never making him over-the-top when he could easily have been in your face.
Russell is the more romantic of the two, and yet this never becomes oversentimental even when they have their 'Notting Hill' moment at the end when the full exploration of the relationship reaches its crescendo.
Haigh's use of the tower block as a character is also important using some great landscape shots of the city at nighttime, and the naturalistic feel of the film flows fluidly throughout in pace with the freedom of the performances that elevate another boy-meets-boy film to the echelon of worthwhile movie in its own right.  There are some lovely shots such as when the camera is fixed on the pair whilst they talk on the tram on the way home on Saturday night, the camera holds and lets the two hold our attention whilst the tram is moving - that is a great element of faith and trust in the two leading men for a small film and from a first-time helmer such as Haigh.
Hopefully this film finds a far wider ranging audience, one that it deserves and needs to see it for all its worth.


Interview with Andrew Haigh, Tom Cullen and Chris New

NTTA is granted a too short half hour with the director and two stars of latest British film 'Weekend' which received its UK Premiere at the London Film Festival 2011 this weekend.

When you meet filmmakers or hear of other reviewers having met filmmakers you only hear the horror stories, the director who is too opinionated or does not want to be found out if they mention a certain film as an influence, or the vain star who spends too much time looking out the window instead of at the person interviewing them.  Which makes it so refreshing to meet three young men who have together made a film that is both refreshing, original and entertaining.

Chris New (extrovert Glen) sits sandwiched between Tom Cullen (reserved Russell) and the director, Andrew Haigh.  We start off by asking about the response to the film in America.

AH: 'Yeah, well it is all about timing.  We weren't ready in time for Sundance, yet we were for South by Southwest (SXSW in Austin, Texas - where the film won the Audience Award), and yes it was positive out there but there is sometimes a willingness for the praise to end, and you think that is alright the bubble will burst. But then we get picked up by a distributor in America, and then we open in New York and we get fully booked houses, so you become aware that maybe we have not just got a gay niche film but something for a wider audience, especially one who pays to go see it already.'

The shoot took 17 days in Nottingham, how did that go?

TC: 'It was the most pleasurable experience I can remember having in a working environment, because of the journey all three of us took together helped.'

AH: 'It helped that I had two good actors, because too often directors don't trust actors they've cast.'

CN: 'I've had experiences when you suggest something to a director, who will say no thanks. And then 10 minutes later will come back and suggest what you just told him.'

TC: 'And the script helped but it was an ongoing thing, because there was room to improvise such as I said a line about Russell kissing my chest and then my hand.  I got the script and then saw that was in there'.

AH: ' I was constantly re-writing and re-writing the script.'

CN: 'That's what happened with the chocolate rolls. I read for Glen with someone else before Tom was cast and he bought chocolate rolls to the read'.

AH: ' So we were always adding to the script throughout, but the most important thing was to keep this film honest and not make it about aesthetics.'

Andrew your experience has been in Hollywood editing for Ridley Scott in Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, was that a deliberate act to not be over aesthetic on this occasion.

AH: 'I think people are liable to over-edit to death, on this occasion it was always my intention to let the film unfold in the moment, allow there to be a freedom for the audience as well to engage and invest their time more with a natural flow and create their own relationship as well.

CN: 'And the more specific you make the story, in this case about two men - nevermind the fact they are gay - the more universal it becomes.'

When you were reading the script, where you aware that is was a relationship movie and not just an addition to queer cinema.

TC: 'As I was reading the script it became less important what their sexuality was, and it read like two men talking and arguing  and it was more a character study'.

CN: 'I liked the fact that it was romantic and dramatic at the same time, and that you could relate to these two characters as men, not just gay men'.

I asked the cast and director if they felt that gay men on British film is still a taboo subject, seeing as the film has been granted a 18 certificate.

AH: 'The rating does not bother me, because that was always the plan to aim for that and with this subject matter it was expected.  However what bothers me is the writing afterwards, where in the box it says "Hard Sex, Hard Drug use" which I think is a false representation of the film itself.  The drug use is in one scene and the sex scenes...

TC: ' It's not Trainspotting is it'.

CN: 'If anything, the sex scenes are quite intimate and realistic'.

AH: 'And tender I thought. The rating and wording of their description makes it sound like a porno.  A gay porno, which is not what we have made.'

But don't you worry that people may think you are making a political statement?

AH: 'But we aren't.  We are telling realistic and naturalistic love story between two men'.

CN: ' When you are gay, the politics of the age overshadows your life and becomes part of your life.  It is a shame because I thought we were living in a post-censorship age when clearly we are not'.

With that our time is up, to clarify there are two sex scenes in the film between the two central characters.  Neither is graphic, they are shot realistically and with affection and care for the characters - unfortunately there is still this repression in British society surrounding gay men and their sexuality. Weekend is not ground breaking in its portrayal of gay men, but you will have to go a long way to find a film that is both intellectually mature and ultimately entertaining.

The film is distributed by Peccadillo Pictures and is released in the UK on 4 November 2011.
Jamie Garwood

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