Bittersweet, achingly authentic, and so intimate it almost feels invasive, Weekend is a gay halfway-romance set in the United Kingdom’s Nottingham that stretches over one fall weekend in which two men meet uncute at a club and form an attachment in the groggy morning after. But while it’s accurate to describe it as a “gay film,” that label needlessly condemns it to a niche when it deserves a wide audience, or at least as wide an audience as a drama that features frank, unabashed man-on-man hookups can manage. Weekend is, simply, a great indie romance. Its small scale allows for detailed looks at two men who are likeable and flawed, and who connect on a level neither expected—nor in one case, was even looking for.
Both men are, on the surface, representative types: Tom Cullen, who works as a lifeguard, is quiet, a little awkward, and at first glance, not secure in his sexuality, while Chris New is an aspiring artist—confident, brash, and confrontational. But as they begin chipping away at each other after meeting up again for a dawdling afternoon, then another evening out that turns into a cocaine-fueled all-nighter, they uncover complexities and contradictions. New confronts Cullen on his reserve, questioning whether he’s out to his friends, suggesting he’s ashamed, while Cullen uncovers the desire to keep people at a distance that lies at the heart of New’s proclaimed rejection of anything resembling a conventional relationship.
Director Andrew Haigh (in his sophomore feature, after his 2009 debut Greek Pete) has cited mumblecore as an inspiration for Weekend, which offers an interesting view on that Amerindie sort-of genre. While shot in a naturalistic style with plenty of fluid camerawork, Weekend never looks like a mumblecore movie; it seems deliberately constructed, its dialogue is realistic in what doesn't appear to be an improvised fashion, and the production values are far sleeker overall. (Cinematographer Urszula Pontikos finds unfussy beauty in the everyday here.) The few similarities are thematic, suggesting that the legacy of the mumblecore mini-movement may not be how the films were made, but their content—the constricted timeline, the groundedness, the unhurried emphasis on believable conversation. It’s enough to make it clear that even though “talky” gets thrown around as a possible pejorative, talking can be as sexy and revealing as any bedroom scene.