Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Authentic Frankness

 "I couldn't be more proud of you than if you were the first man on the moon."

Feel like if Before Sunrise had more drugs, booze, body hair, and shots of the characters in a council estate apartment in Nottingham, it would be this
Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)

Yes, this two-strangers-meet-then-fuck-in-a-flat plot has been done before on thousands of films, but Weekend takes such a genuine and thoughtful approach to it, it's refreshing.

Weekend opens with shots of sky with moving clouds, windows, and a bicycle. Russell (Tom Cullen) is alone, bathing himself in the tub before heading out to a dinner party with his straight friends before going to a trashy gay bar, where he meets Glen (Chris New). The next morning, still tangled in sheets, Glen takes out a tape recorder and asks Russell to recall the events of the night before (e.g. why he picked up him, what he remembers from last night), it's revealed than Glen's working on an art project in which he interviews gay men about their 'coming out' and their true feelings about love and life.

Glen is almost the opposite of Russell; Glen's very openly gay while Russell wants to keep his orientation private, self-protective and is uncomfortable with PDA. One has traditional views about relationships and the other has commitment issues and "doesn't do boyfriends". I like how the film shows the contrast between Russell's apartment (where he feels safe and happy) vs. the external world (where he feels anxious and exposed) via the use of camera and sound, and how it doesn't fall into romantic film cliches but still have occasional relationship insight.

Could have been a one night stand, it was purely sexual at the beginning, but it turns out to be a weekend-long romance via a bond they develop by spending the weekend talking, slowly opening up & revealing themselves to one another, being careful what to say—as people would be at the start of a new relationship— trying to get to know each other, and having exploratory sex.

The above-the-waistline sex scenes are raw and explicit, but not at all graphic, yet you can feel the emotional connection of Russell and Glen in such an intimate way. Such a great on-screen couple.. this film probably has one of the most honest and relatable relationships than some other films belonging to this genre.

This is the type of film with all of its weight held in its writing and acting. It's a joy to see the qualified people discussing such complex issues of sexuality and identity so honestly and openly. I particularly like the scene where the pair argue over the issue of gay marriage, whether two men getting married is just two people coming together or a way of imitating straight people, and this part:
"Well, you know what it's like when you first sleep with someone you don't know?"
"It's... you, like, become this blank canvas and it gives you an opportunity to project onto that canvas who you want to be. That's what's interesting because everybody does that."
The curtain is closed with a close-up of Russell following Glen to the train station for a final goodbye (ok, that's a cliche) as off-screen characters cat-calls them, a perfect little ending. Brings up a lot of feelings.

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