There is something wrong when the best you can do to describe such a quiet little gem as Weekend is saying it's "the gay Before Sunrise". That's pretty much damning Andrew Haigh's engagingly low-key tale of the beginning of a romantic relationship with faint praise, by boxing it in a shelf that belittles it. Weekend is not primarily a queer film or a gay love story, it is essentially a romantic drama about two lonely people getting to know each other; also, there is little of the constant chattering of Richard Linklater's cult movie. In fact, Weekend is much closer to the dramatic realist template we identify with classic British filmmaking, only entirely removing the social subtexts (for once, it's not about class) and focussing on emotions and feelings. The casual gay hook-up between shy lifeguard Russell (Tom Cullen) and brash artist Glen (Chris New) is closer to the "brief encounter" of David Lean's mid-1940s classic, throwing two people into an unexpected spin about to be stymied by chance.

     In Mr. Haigh's minutely yet warmly observed drama, attentive to its characters but never intruding, it's Glen's upcoming departure to the USA for a two-year art degree that renders so heartbreakingly bitter-sweet the spot-on description of those first, tentative, exhilarating moments when you realise you may have just found the one you have been looking for only to have to relinquish it. Strongly structured as a scripted drama with enough room for the occasional cast improvisation, Weekend is a lovely, accomplished film where nothing much happens except life, and where anyone may recognise his or her own feelings regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race, Laura Freeman

Director, writer, editor: Andrew Haigh
Cinematography: Ula Pontikos  (colour, processing by Technicolor)
Designer and costumes: Sarah Finlay
Producer: Tristan Goligher (Glendale Picture Company in co-production with The Bureau Film Company and Syncronicity Films, in association with EM Media)
United Kingdom, 2011, 97 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 12th 2012


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