The best part of any romantic film is almost always the moment that the two main characters meet each other — that first spark of attraction.
But all too often, romantic movies will gloss over those crucial moments and/or skip the next few days in the budding relationship in favor of moving the story forward. Unfortunately for 90 percent of them, what happens next is pretty predictable: The couple is happy for a while, but something comes between them and they break up — all before getting back together and realizing what a mistake it had all been to be apart in the first place.
Writer/director Andrew Haigh‘s exciting British indie Weekend, out now on The Criterion Collection Blu-ray and DVD, takes a different approach. It’s a romantic film where the two main characters meet and spend almost all their time together getting to know each other over a weekend.
It’s a rich and moving film and it seems, at first glance, to be merely be the product of two great actors with enormous natural chemistry. But there’s more forethought in Weekend. This movie is no happy accident. Haigh’s screenplay isn’t afraid to get dirty in either sense of the word. Weekend is explicit both in its attention to detail and it’s raw physicality.
One weekend will define the relationship, and the moments between easygoing, likable Russell (Tom Cullen) and rough-edged Glen (Chris New) are like mini tugs-of-war. One will advance. The other retreats, until he thinks its safer to risk his neck.
Basic codes of conduct are explored and take on new meaning now that they are exposed to a stranger’s eyes. Meeting this curious new person forces each of them into some difficult self-examination. If it sounds complicated, it is.
For these two homosexual men, there are all kinds of thorny issues that complicate things even further. Not only are they burdened with all the unfamiliarity of letting a newcomer into their life, but now each man is forced to deal with how they express themselves and their homosexuality to the world. For Russell and Glen, this is radically different.
But for a movie that bares the souls of its characters so completely, Weekend doesn’t unfold like a complicated movie. The dialogue is natural, the sex scenes are tender, and the camera never gets in the way of the story. Andrew Haigh holds his shot just as long as he needs to and although the camera is handheld much of the time, it’s not bobbing around calling attention to itself.
As unassuming as Weekend is, it’s also surprisingly powerful in that it creeps up on you. The ending of the film even seems to, for a moment, be giving you the straight-up typical romantic moment — which you want so badly to happen (a testament to how involved you are in the story) — but then it gives you something altogether more appropriate to the fresh point of view that the movie has been championing the entire time.
The excellent Criterion Blu-ray and DVD features the trailer, two short films by Haigh (2003′s Cahuenga Blvd. and Five Miles Out from 2009), plenty of interviews with the cast and crew, on-set video footage, Tom Cullen and Chris New’s auditions, and a video essay on the film’s set photographers.