Weekend, which won the 2011 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Outstanding International Dramatic Feature, is getting a great reception among gay men wherever it shows. Interestingly, this unapologetic queer romance is also being embraced by straight viewers, who bestowed Audience Awards upon it at the hetero-dominated South by Southwest and Nashville film festivals. Weekend will be gradually released in theaters in NYC and throughout the U.S. beginning September 23.
Written, directed and even edited by British filmmaker Andrew Haigh (Greek Pete), Weekend follows two gay men over the course of 48 hours following their initial, Friday night meeting. Insightful and sexy, I don't think we've seen a gay-themed film this purely romantic and ultimately affecting since Brokeback Mountain. Lead actors Tom Cullen and Chris New have undeniable chemistry and give great, vulnerable performances.
Haigh called recently from "across the pond" to speak about Weekend. "More than anything," Haigh said, "I just wanted to tell a story about two people falling in love with each other. I wanted to make it as realistic and honest as possible. I've seen a lot of gay films but none of them really reflected my life."
The filmmaker started out as an editor on such popular mainstream movies as Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Mona Lisa Smile. In 2008, he was named as one of Screen International's "Stars of Tomorrow." Haigh shared: "I've always wanted to direct; I didn't necessarily set out to be a writer-director but it just kind of happened." He counts Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator) as a mentor and independent American directors including Joe Swannberg (Autoerotic, Blackmail Boys) as inspirations.
Haigh is thrilled by the awards and positive reactions Weekend has been receiving in the US since his film has yet to open in the UK "It's been fascinating to me, especially now that with the Internet and Twitter you can get people's immediate reaction. Not just gay people but lots of straight people have said (my movie) really resonates with them."
He has a theory as to why Weekend is finding more universal acceptance than most gay-themed films. "I've always felt that if you're honest with your story, people will go along with it." Haigh also believes his movie's take on the challenge of finding and keeping Mister or Miss Right is striking a chord. "It's hard!" he laughed. "Finding someone you connect with is very difficult; It's a bit of a battle."
Haigh has nothing but praise for his lead actors, especially when it comes to the film's graphic sex scenes. "Tom and Chris made the whole process surprisingly easy, although it is always daunting filming such scenes. We just tried to make things as comfortable as possible by shooting with minimal crew and doing only a couple of takes. Alcohol helps too."
I have to admit I was put off by the characters' considerable drug use in the film. While getting high on marijuana and cocaine during the early stages of courting seems to me a far from healthy foundation for a long-lasting relationship, I can respect Haigh's choice in this regard to the degree it reflects his observations. This is the only aspect in which Weekend felt false to me in light of my life experience.
So what can we expect next from this talented gay filmmaker? "I'm trying to write," Haigh said, "which is very difficult while you're going to festivals and traveling around. Writing takes a long, long time." I expect his next project will be worth the wait.
Reverend's Rating: B+
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.