Weekender (2011) – the latest film from director Karl Golden and starring Zawe Ashton, Jack O’Connell and Henry Lloyd-Hughes – takes us back to the manic highs and crashing lows of the 1990s rave scene. The film follows two happy-go-lucky crooks, Matt (Lloyd-Hughes) and Dylan (O’Connel), who we see attempting to steal a cigarette machine at the beginning of the film.
With an initially innocent passion for a good party, the boys have a simple dream: hosting one epic rave night, to be entitled ‘Valhalla’. Realising their vision with little real effort and hitting upon instant success, Matt and Dylan find themselves at the top of Manchester’s acid house scene, with all that that entails.
As a fairly straightforward, cautionary tale on the price of a good time, Weekender can hardly be seen as original. For anyone acquainted with O’Connel’s role in E4 hit series Skins, watching Dylan will no doubt feel exactly like watching James Cook gallivant around 90s Manchester. An undeniably charismatic performer, O’Connel – alongside the modest but noticeable talent of Lloyd-Hughes – do in fact interact well together in an entertaining, yet never touching friendship.
While it may not open up any new areas of discussion towards its subject matter, the shallowness of Weekender’s story speaks volumes; a lifestyle of endless nights out, intoxicated on ecstasy and ‘big tunes’, is ultimately one devoid of any real substance until things turn extremely sour.
Far from glamorising drug abuse, Weekender – like Skins – feels a lot closer to reality in its depiction of youth drug culture than perhaps many have given it credit for. Whilst Weekender does, in the end, take a moral stance over matters, it never adopts a black-and-white, overly-didactic brand of naiveté.
Weekender is unlikely to be seen, let alone appreciated, anywhere outside of the UK, but thanks to Golden’s sturdy direction and his knowledge of the film’s subject and locations, its certainly a trip worth taking.