He grabs a drink at a local gay club. After attracting the attention of a short, awkward young man, Russell becomes increasingly inebriated, waking up in his bed with little recollection of the night before. Lying next to him is Glen, an attractive, artistic type who begins interviewing Russell on their late-night fumble for a potential art installation. As the two converse, they agree to meet other later in the day once Russell finishes his shift working at as a lifeguard at a local pool, and from here-on in the pair are nigh-on inseparable for the weekend. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the two men’s differing circumstances may hamper the chances of a long-term relationship despite their clear affection for one-another.
It’s extremely rare to see a film concerning gay culture handled without fanfare, and with Weekend, Haigh has produced a perfectly balanced, sensitively shot and (importantly) financially viable independent British romance with mass appeal. Several times during the film, Glen makes the point that nearly all narratives on TV and film are straight-biased, with little exposure for works featuring gay content. Knowingly, Haigh’s film is the exception to that rule, a subtle, understated call-to-arms which has proved that gay cinema can prosper at the UK box office when made to a high standard. Both Cullen and New are outstanding in the two lead roles, but it is perhaps Cullen who impresses most as the quiet, thoughtful Russell.
Russell appears as the perfect yin to Glen’s yang, a contemplative soul brought out of his shell by his extroverted, opinionated other half. The final scenes between the two are as emotive and melancholic as any in recent memory, though sadly tainted by a number of whistles and catcalls from a group of boys off-screen. Notably, Haigh never depicts the physical threat of homophobia, instead preferring to focus on its casual, ingrained existence in our very language (in once scene, Russell is forced to listen to a group of teens discussing a schoolmate, the term ‘gay’ used in its most derogatory form).
Weekend is not only one of the most significant gay-themed films of recent years, but also amongst the finest independent films of the last twelve months, a bittersweet ode to romance and relationships in 21st century Britain. Whether gay or straight, Haigh’s latest is a must-see triumph in the face of multiple adversity.