Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Andrew Haigh's WEEKEND finally arrives, trailing beaucoup press and awards....

...which are, for the most part, deserved. It's been awhile since any movie showed us a relationship-in-the-making with such finesse and acuity. Before Sunrise, as has been noted elsewhere, comes to mind. Both films rely heavily on dialog, on the chemistry between the two lead performers, and on the filmmaker's ability to capture the parry/feint/thrust that goes on actively (or passively) in most burgeoning relationships.

Andrew Haigh, the filmmaker of WEEKEND (shown at right: he wrote, directed and edited the movie) has done a splendid job of  this, coaxing two tremendously real performances (or maybe he simply allowed his two leading actors to "be") that are spot-on for the film's entire 96 minutes. The movie has the look and feel of improvisa-tion yet the writing is full of smart, quick, well-chosen dialog that helps create character, even as it advances the plot (such as it is) and fills us in on people, place, time frame, history, the lot.

Oh, yes -- and our two protagonists are men: Russel (Tom Cullen, above, left) and Glen (Chris New, right). So this year's top "relationship" movie thus far is, ummm, about gays. Because of the skill with which Mr. Haigh has guided his film and brought it home, it is easy to understand what all the advance press and praise is about. And the film will certainly play well to intelligent gay audiences. It might also play as well to straight audiences -- if they will let it. I suspect not, but still, we must live in hope.

In passing, and via that very real dialog, we learn in what profession each man is employed, that Russel is still semi-closeted, while Glen is anything but, and that, as the relationship begins to build, how the two alternate places in the catbird seat. I do wish I could have understood more of that dialog, however. Because of the accents (Cullen hails from Wales and New from Britain), I missed a certain amount and so will rent the DVD when it appears and hope for English subtitles.

If there is to be any fault leveled against the film, it might be that it is so very small. But that, according to filmmaker, is what he wanted: " to explore some of the more subtle aspects of the gay experience, especially how people deal with the weight of being different and the choices they make because of it."  In this, Haigh has succeeded in spades: Why, perhaps, Russell (above) works as life guard or Glen (below) feels the need to be always so quick on the trigger.

Most of all, I believe, we learn what these men are afraid of, and -- even more haltingly -- what they want. The movie gets as close as anything I have seen to the heart of commitment, as well as to our innate fear of this. The final scene between Russell and Glen is extraordinary, and Haigh's ending is a real achievement. I could go on, but you need to see Weekend (forget the old Godard movie; there's no connection) as soon as you can, before you hear too much and either expect too much or have certain scenes spoiled.

The movie, from Sundance Selects, opens this Friday, September 23, in New York City at IFC Center -- with a national rollout to follow. Click here and then scroll to the right to see upcoming release dates, cities and theaters.

All photos are from the film itself, except that of Mr. Haigh which comes courtesy of indieWIRE and was taken by Brian Brooks.

No comments: