With his critically-acclaimed 2011 British modern romantic drama, “Weekend”, Andrew Haigh has created something truly special. “Weekend” is the tale of Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two very different people who meet at a Nottingham gay nightclub, have a one-night-stand (which turns to something more throughout the weekend), and are never the same again.
Russell is a single lifeguard who attends a house party with friends one Friday night, but leaves early to go to a gay club (partly for more drinks, partly to find a one-night stand). He finds the latter in Glen, a student artist. This is a romance film, so of course, they fuck. The next morning (Saturday), Glen asks Russell to describe the experience of the night and their meeting on a tape recorder “for an art project”, and from that point forward, 2 things are clear: these people couldn’t have less in common (making their life-changing relationship that much more amazing), and that this isn’t your ordinary LGBTQ+ romance movie.
Throughout the description, and at other points in the film, Russell is noticeably hesitant and reserved, while Glen is more open and blunt and descriptive. They meet again after Russell’s shift at the pool ends, and learn more about each other (Russell grew up in foster homes with his friend Jamie, who he’ll see Sunday for his daughter’s birthday; Glen’s moving Sunday afternoon to Oregon for 2 years studying art). With the latter revelation, Russell is sad, but they still promise to meet again at Glen’s goodbye party to his friends later that night. There, they talk more, fight, make up, and make out.
Sunday comes, and there’s no fairy-tale magic or wish that undoes what both said they’d do on this day. Their paths cross in the morning with more talking, and at night they’re able to meet one last time at the train station. Though who’s to say it’s the last time, or that it’s goodbye, because after all 4 days before neither of them even knew the other existed. Russell breaks his reservedness in public for a beautiful moment that also serves to express the many ways both change from this experience, this weekend-long fling. In another way, the fling changes Glen’s anti-relationship thoughts (he starts out not wanting to get in a position where he could be hurt again, but discovers some people are worth giving that risk a shot).
“Weekend” is one of a few LGBTQ+ movies deemed important enough to receive a DVD and Blu-Ray distribution release from the Criterion Collection series, which is dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world throughout history, and releasing them in high-quality with historic bonus features. It’s been compared in numerous ways to Richard Linklater’s 1995 great “Before Sunrise”, which also lingered on the beginning of a connection. That film had a sequel, “Before Sunset”, which had the same characters retain their relationship years later, and while “Weekend” likely won’t receive a sequel, the ending leaves the possibility that this might not be a permanent end to their friendship and relationship. But even if it is, they’ve both been changed for the better.
Gay love stories have been more prevalent in cinema over the last two decades than ever before, with two in particular getting widespread mainstream praise and Criterion Collection releases (this and “Blue is the Warmest Color”). You’ll find few that are as important or realistic as “Weekend”. One of the best-reviewed movies of 2011, it’s also likely one of the best LGBTQ+ movies ever made. It’s a tender, honest, story about falling in love. It’s a tale of identity and self-definition. And it’s about love between two gay men. And that’s probably why it stands out so much among other LGBTQ+ films throughout history: the latter aspect is just a small part of it amidst the rest of the tale. Most people can identify with at least one of these two characters, and most people can sympathize with this tale, and most people can understand and agree with the potential tagline “Weekend” could conceivably have: “Sex is easy, love is hard.”
In conclusion, sometimes you meet a person truly special, that your life would never be the same with or without meeting, that you never forget. Glen and Russell were never the same after their “Weekend” relationship. And after watching “Weekend”, you’ll never be the same.