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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Sep. 29, 2011 | 11:24 PM

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One of many standout moments in Andrew Haigh’s pitch perfect romance Weekend comes as Glen (Chris New) and Russell (Tom Cullen) walk along the midway at a carnival after riding the bumper cars.  Glen is enjoying a bag of cotton candy as he describes a moment of teenage horror where a friend discovered that he had paused his parents copy of the Merchant Ivory chestnut A Room With A View on a naked Rupert Graves.  Not exactly remembered for its eroticism, the film does feature a scene where Graves and company gleefully run around a lake in the nude.  After being caught, the friend uttered some slurs and left..  “Are you still friends with him?” Russsell asks.  “Nah,” Glen replies, grabbing more cotton candy.  After a pause, he adds that after word got out, he wasn’t friends with anyone else at school either.

This is the kind of stuff that romance, and more importantly, intimacy is made of, and also the kind of thing that so few movie romances, gay or straight, get right.  Whether the story in Weekend is based on actual events, or was created just for purposes of the film, Haigh succeeds here because he boils down his subject matter to universal truths.  In a way, it’s almost a shame that the director decided on such a plain, albeit iconic, title.  While the title certainly fits, there are a whole host of other films called Weekend, and it would be a shame if viewers searching for Haigh’s film got it mixed up with something else.

The set-up for Weekend is simple.  Russell attends a party at the home of his (straight) friends, and finds himself getting restless on the bus ride home.  Putting the moves on Glen and bringing him back to his flat, the two wake up in bed the next morning with only a hazy memory of what went down the night before.  They get to talking, and before they realize it, what started as a one night stand begins to develop into something deeper. 

Many films have begun this way, but only a very few are able to build on this scenario in such a genuine organic way as Haigh does here.  As the film’s writer and director, he’s clearly the film’s primary creative force, but as he also edited the film, he can also be credited with Weekend’s flawless pacing.  Like all great writing, Haigh’s script seems invisible, but it’s not. He makes us feel like it’s all just unfolding, but a closer look reveals a very careful structure.  While Haigh gave his actors room to improvise, its clear that a solid script was always there to provide a jumping off point.

Even with all of Haigh’s artistry, Weekend was bound to live and die on the strength of its two leads, and Cullen and New both do remarkable work here.  Both Russell and Glen come across as two very different, but fully realized human beings, both trying to connect for different reasons.  Cullen and New each have a number of scene stealing moments, which build to form the basis of any successful romance, which is that as the film unfolds, we want to see these two people together.  There are a couple of realistic sex scenes in the film, but nothing is gratuitous, and each is an important element in telling this particular story. 

My only real complaint about Weekend is a minor one, but it bears repeating.  The film is set in Nottingham, England, and the actor’s accents take some getting used to.  That being said, Haigh has provided the film with an excellent sound mix, so take advantage of the opportunity to see it in a theatre with a high quality sound system if you can.

Weekend is being released theatrically through IFC Films, and while it’s currently only in New York and LA, 15 more cities are scheduled to follow.  Oscar season is just around the corner, and it would be a welcome surprise if we heard Andrew Haigh’s name when the writing nominees are announced.  I doubt we’ll see a better written romance this year.

Weekend opens Friday, September 30th at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, and The Landmark theatre in West L.A.


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