Where would Andrew Haigh’s deceptively simple gay romance figure in David Cameron’s manifesto for “commercially successful” British cinema? Haigh’s subtle slow-burner follows no fixed formula for exportable success.
Yet it gained sure word-of-mouth traction from festivals to cinema release, even in a year stuffed with British crackers like Submarine and Kill List. As Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) cop off together in a Midlands any-town, the stage seems set for a schematic indie two-hander: gentle lifeguard Russell wants a quiet life, likeably gobby artist Glen is confrontational.
Yet as they walk, talk, fuck, do drugs and argue over one weekend – a deadline fixed by Glen’s pending move to America – the leads’ fluid chemistry tenderly, truthfully registers how love incrementally changes both men. As Cullen says on brief but amiable extras, the resulting riffs on heart, head, identity and aspiration resonate widely.
Crucially, though, Weekend draws its universal potency from specifics such as location (small-hours garages, lonely high-rises), intimacy (spunk-splashed navels) and needlepoint emotional nuance.
Wry digs at A Room With A View (“the one with the poshies in all the houses”) and Notting Hill (“never seen it”) speak volumes: this isn’t homegrown, paint-by-known-quantity-numbers cinema but grassroots filmmaking of conviction and complexity, right up to a climax that doesn’t cheat one jot and haunts for days.
A heartfelt romance rooted in the real, a searching art-pic that feels natural, Weekend stakes out its own Brit-pic turf. Encourage this, Cameron.