“Weekend” (2011): a quick note on radicalism
10 January 2012
Busy here again, and my post on The Artist is just not writing itself. Apparently if you love something that much, one’s own words about its deliciousness cannot seem but dreary and pedantic. So for today I’m going to tell you to see Weekend, Andrew Haigh’s beautifully brilliant and radical film about two men who encounter each other.
There’s a very sweet story here about their attraction to each other, especially because we see all of it through the eyes of the lovely and perennially self-deprecating Russell (Tom Cullen, above left), who sees in Glen (Chris New) the possibility of something more serious. As much as Russell’s shy, admiring glances almost break your heart for their eagerness and caution, the film’s radicalism comes from its portrayal of a weekend-long gay relationship — sex, drugs, disagreements, personality clashes, and, most of all, their different ways of being gay in a broader culture deeply squeamish with gay sex.
It’s perhaps closest to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset (2004) — that talky and fraught encounter between Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke — but Weekend is so much more stunning. It simultaneously takes for granted that two men might wear their political commitments and identities differently, and also brings to the forefront how debates over gay marriage or queer sex speak utterly and pervasively about any given man’s soul and what he wants in an ideal world. It’s spectacular and quiet, and might be my favorite love story of the year.
Early on, Glen asks Russell to retell how they met each other at the bar. Russell can barely lift his eyes as he describes seeing him across the room, and “I thought you were out of my league, or whatever.” What league do you think you’re in? Glen asks. “Third division,” he responds. This exchange somehow breaks my heart even to remember it, and captures that horrible combination of magic and nails-on-chalkboard of those early days of a relationship. Their story is a gay story, not packaged prettily for straight people and not shy about showing you the sex. It’s radical and wonderful and beautiful — spectacular.