Weekendrecommended viewing

Maybe I'll find a friend to spend the weekend
★★★★
Released: 
2011
Director: 
Andrew Haigh
Starring: 
Tom Cullen, Chris New
The Setup: 
Finely-observed romance between two young gay men.
Discussion: 

Decades into the future we'll see that a lot of gay movies get mileage from merely being among the first to show something that hasn't been seen before in gay film. Like Brokeback Mountain was among the first to assert that gays really love each other--it's not all one-night stands, Cosmos and hot abs--or Big Eden (which I havent seen yet, but I understand) was among the first to show gays as well-adjusted and relatively happy and drama-free. Then years later you look back and, once the newness has worn off, the films seem rather average. Maybe that is the fate that awaits Weekend--which gains in interest for showing guys that are relatively average, embodies a lot of uniquely gay situations one doesn't often see portrayed in film, and ends up being terribly sweet and romantic--but since it accomplishes that while also being extremely well-written, with real, relatable and deep characters, having a solid structure and honestly earning its emotional response, I have to suspect it will survive the ages better than some other films.

We open with Russell, somewhat of a contemporary bear type, washing up, smoking weed, and going to meet his friends Jamie, Jamie's wife and other straight friends. He excuses himself, saying he needs to get up the next day, then goes to a gay bar. This was the first little touch that struck as really true-to-life; leaving your straight friends to go to a gay environment. This is all in London, by the way. At the bar Russell gets a little drunk, and comes on to this other skinny bear, Glen, who plays it cool for a while. Then we cut to the next morning (INSTANT coffee????), where they're making post-hookup banter, and Glen pulls out a tape recorder, saying he has an art project where he interviews all his tricks after sleeping with them. They talk about the sex, including that Glen wanted to fuck Russell, but Russell refused. They exchange numbers, and we see that Russell is uncomfortable with any display of affection while his straight neighbors are out in the hallway.

They text each other, and meet again in the afternoon. They get stoned and talk and have sex again. Glen leaves, but then comes right back and tells Russell that he's leaving for Portland, OR for two years, the next day. He invites Russell to join him and his friends at a bar that night. Russell goes, and we see him standing silently on the bus as straight youths near him make fun of gays--true-to-life moment number two. Glen's friends are assembled at a straight bar, where Glen tells a loud story about a sexual encounter with someone else. Russell wanders off and ends up talking to Glen's female friend, who says Glen must like him, since he didn't let her listen to his tape, as he always does with his other tricks. She is a little ironic about Glen's plan to move to Portland, and Russell is concerned that Glen's friends aren't more supportive. Meanwhile one of the straight patrons is asking Glen to keep it down, and Glen is throwing back in his face that it must be because he was telling a gay story. No, the straight guy says, it's just that you're loud.

Glen and Russell end up back at Russell's, where they do coke and talk all night. At one point Glen tells Russell of being caught jerking off to men by his straight roommate, who then realized he was gay. "Were you still friends after that?" Russell asks. "No," Glen replies, "and I wasn't friends with anyone else after he told the whole school." Russell expresses sympathy, and Glen responds with a clipped "It is what it is." At that moment a lot of Glen's abruptness and wall of indifference, including the fact that he "Doesn't do boyfriends," becomes more understandable. And by now you may have been thinking that Glen is a fairly annoying character, but you have to admit that he's annoying in the same way that people you know can be annoying, and that's just who he is. Then you start to put together he reasons he is is way (and how his past personal hurts result in his political ideals that connection and boyfriends and all that is for the sentimental), and he just seems like a person you really know. This comes out during one of their later, coked-out discussions, where Glen is saying that gay marriage is just gays wanting into all these straight institutions, and Russell raising the possibility that maybe some gays who want to marry just really love each other.

SPOILERS > > >
Now the stuff we're going to talk about here is what moves the movie from good to great, but is also going to give away a lot of the special moments, so if you're already convinced to see it, you should skip past the spoilers and let it unfold on the screen.

They both get more drugged-up, and weirdly emotional. We see that Russell now let's Glen fuck him. Afterward, they discuss how Russell was not out to his parents, who are now dead. Glen suggests that Russell pretend that he is Russell's father, and role play coming out to him. After Russell does, Glen responds that he still loves him and "Couldn't be prouder of him if he was the first man on the moon." Russell makes a little ambiguous gesture that could mean an overwhelming wave of emotion, and we cut away. Nicely handled! They soon part without much fanfare, because Glen "Doesn't do goodbyes."

Russell goes over to Jamie's (his straight friend from the beginning) for his goddaughter's birthday. Jamie can see that something is bothering him, but Russell says "We don't really talk about this stuff," to which Jamie replies "Right," as in "But I'd like it if you did talk about it, and I could handle it." Russell tells him the story, and Jamie offers to drive him to the train station right then so that Russell can see Glen once more.

The movie ends with a terribly romantic goodbye on the train platform, and a beautiful public kiss in which the entire movie--BOOM!--comes together in an explosion of emotion. Mostly the simmering knowledge that Russell is very uncomfortable with public displays of affection, but now throws that to the wind. They have now somewhat changed places in attitude, as when they are made fun of my off-screen straights, Russell stares at them defiantly, while the normally outspoken Glen, who is also supposed to the the unemotional one who doesn't get attached, is reduced to silence. Bring your Kleenex! The movie ends with a small but perfect little ending coda.
< < < SPOILERS END

The day after I had to ask myself "Would this be such a big deal if it was a straight love story?" and while maybe it wouldn't be, it would still be a very carefully-written and performed touching little drama. I especially admire how all the little character touches that seem like just so many details all align to bash you in the face (emotionally) during the final scene. Just plain brilliant writing, which would be the same in a movie of any orientation.

And you know what? The fact that a lot of the interest might be generated from the fact that this exists in a context where this stuff hasn't been seen in a film before doesn't invalidate it, because look, the film EXISTS in that context. It was created in that context. And rather than just come out with a statement like "discrimination is wrong" or "two guys can really love each other," it comes packed with a bunch of recognizable moments that are very true to gay life, and are valid for their sheer number, how very real they are, and the fact that the relationships and emotions portrayed here really are unique to the gay context. Like Russell excusing himself from his gay friends to go to the gay world, standing by as straights make fun of gays, Glen's political stances being at least partly informed by his personal hurts, Glen being shushed by a straight guy in a bar, who is insisting that it's just that he's loud, NOT that he's gay, stuff like that. I also liked the touch that Russell's straight friend feels left out because Russell won't share his gay life with him. So from beginning to end, this really is a uniquely gay story, not something where you could just switch the sex of one of the characters and leave everything else the same.

Also in that vein is the whole idea, summed up in the title, that this whole big connection was all formed over the course of less than 48 hours. The little coda at the end brings us back to the first few minutes of their relationship, and it's a brilliant ending, because it makes you reflect on how far everything has come in such a short time. Everything works here, it's extremely well-written, performed and directed, it's uniquely gay and very true-to-life, and lacks and emotional whallop. See that shit.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, you should, especially if you're a gay man.