Beautifully observed characters, nuanced performances, shrewd writing and unobtrusive style are some of the features of Andrew Haigh’s wonderful Weekend (2011), which charts the relationship between two young men, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), who meet in a Nottingham bar and spend two days - before Glen’s departure to the States to study - getting to know each other. Haigh’s second feature, following the documentary, Greek Pete (2009), is a work of remarkable confidence, intelligence and intimacy, and one that feels all of a piece - even the font in which the film’s title appears on the screen is somehow reassuring.
Equal parts talky and tactile (a few sequences demonstrate an Ozon-esque sensitivity to filming the body), Weekend’s closet cousins would appear to be Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). And it may be the movie’s fate to be viewed as a “gay variant” on those films. But the naturalism and believability of Weekend ultimately surpasses that of both of Linklater’s movies, in my view. As the combative Glen and the quieter, more circumspect Russell connect, slowly opening up and sharing, testing each other’s tastes and sensibility, the movie brilliantly conveys the variously frustrating and exhilarating business of getting to know a new person. Small moments suggest wider resonances, and as the two protagonists get to know each other we feel that we’re getting to know them, too, and modifying and changing our judgements. There’s a wonderful complexity to the characterisation here: we’re allowed to perceive Russell and Glen as strong and vulnerable, honest and self-deluding, open and self-absorbed, by turns.
Written, directed and performed from observation (in a way that Brokeback Mountain , say, so very clearly wasn’t, to me) scene after scene here includes recognisable, resonant details, from morning-after etiquette to whether or not to include an “x” in a text message. But nothing feels forced or stressed. Haigh’s funny, sharp, insightful and soulful movie is one of the strongest contemporary-set British films in years - the finest since Michael Winterbottom’s Wonderland (1999), perhaps. In sum, a great pleasure. More, please.