In its cinema vérité style, Weekend presents a modern gay love story in an understated and direct way. By doing so, director Andrew Haigh has created a film where homosexuality is not the main plot point, and instead focuses on the influence of timing in new relationships. In the film, lifeguard Russell (Tom Cullen) meets aspiring artist Glen (Chris New) at a nightclub. What first appears to be a one-night stand soon develops into the potential groundwork of a long-term relationship, as the two men are clearly drawn to each other
In an interview with the AV Club Haigh stated that he felt the film’s ‘docu-realistic’ style made the audience ‘work harder’. Such a style makes the viewer more visually attentive, as there are no audible cues provided to manipulate the mood or feeling; no music nor voiceover. Weekend is very strongly in the ‘show-don’t-tell’ school of thought. The use of handheld camera not only gives a sense of immediacy and rawness to the film, but it is also one of the features that contributes to Weekend’s ‘watching’ theme. As mentioned, Haigh’s style pushes the audience to watch more intently, and as you watch, you notice Haigh has extended this by how he frames his shots. Haigh often films his actors at a distance, giving a sense that the camera, and by extension the audience, are spying on the couple.
Additionally, Haigh films his characters through doorways and around corners, again making the audience feel as though they are intruding. The director has a place in his heart for filming his actors’ reflections, adding another layer to the motif, as they are also watching themselves. Haigh has clarified that this was a very deliberate decision, as for him the film was about the different ways people conduct themselves in public and private.
Russell keeps to himself; his best friend even states that Russell never shares his feelings. Glen, in contrast, is unapologetically himself; however, his self-confidence does waver at certain points in the film. Haigh felt that this also accurately represented how many gay people feel in public; like they are being watched. It is such subtleties that make Weekend such a fantastic film. Good films should evoke strong feelings, not just by what is presented on the screen, but how it is presented. Just as the structure of Christopher Nolan’s Memento reflected how Leonard (Guy Pearce)’s mind worked, the cinematography of Weekend communicates the self-consciousness of Russell and Glen.
Though homophobia is present in the film, and Glen especially serves as a strong voice promoting gay rights, Weekend steps away from the narratives in which being gay is condemned, or a source of shame for the characters. Such stories are important to tell, but Weekend tells a story many people have experienced, gay or otherwise: meeting a person by chance and feeling a strong connection with them, despite not having spent much time with them at all. When telling a ‘gay’ story, straight culture is inevitably sidelined. This is not a fault, but it does have the effect of ‘othering’ heterosexuality, making the narratives seem irrelevant to audiences outside of the LGBT community. This distinction is present in Weekend, but it is not at the forefront of the story, nor is it the characters’ defining trait. Weekend could perhaps be signalling a shift in the depiction of gay characters, where they aren’t revolutionary, but where they are just people.
Weekend hits an interesting balance of realism and respect for ‘one-night stand culture’. Yes, drunken sex entails after the first encounter – yet the fact that the relationship continues from that initial meeting validates the much-denounced idea that you can actually meet someone you have a connection with on a night out. In that way, Weekend does seem to capture something of the current zeitgeist. Russell is shown to be a loving and sweet godfather, but he also smokes weed and does cocaine. This presents the emerging belief that drugs can be consumed responsibly by normal people, without detrimental effects. Additionally, both characters believe in recording their experiences, as if their personal life story is special and worth the documentation – a hint at the kind of narcissism that the youth of today are often accused of.
Weekend is a very well-constructed film and a testament to the high quality that can be achieved when making a low-budget film. As part of gay cinema, Weekend is an important film as it captures a way of life specific to the present, and indicates a change in the treatment of homosexuality in film. Outside of the world of gay cinema, Weekend has the accessibility as well as the technical and acting brilliance to be considered a modern independent gem.