When I first saw the trailer for ‘Weekend’ it seemed to be a tale of two beards that meet in a gay club in Nottingham on a Friday night and then proceed fall for one another over the next couple of days in a council flat.
And then I watched it. Once I got past the beards, ‘Weekend’ was the first ‘gay film’ I’d seen in a long time that didn’t make me cringe. In fact, it was the first British film I’d seen in a long time that didn’t make me cringe.
It’s really rather good, with both Chris New as opinionated, apparently uninhibited Glen and Tom Cullen as shy, lonely Russell turning in fine performances. They have an on-screen chemistry which makes you feel you are watching something genuinely intimate and delicate unfold.
And while I still stick to my argument here that the era of the melodramatic genre of the Big Gay Movie ushered in by ‘Victim’ in which the drama is about homophobia (internalised and externalised) and the narrative is about coming out and acceptance, has drawn to a close – at least in a Western context – ‘Weekend’ does seem to point to a future in which charming ‘small gay movies’ have a place. If that doesn’t sound too patronising.
I particularly liked the way ‘Weekend’ refused to resort to homophobia as a dramatic device, with Glen being quite obnoxiously gay assertive with some beery straight males in a pub but not getting bashed – instead, they panic when he accuses them of homophobia. Russell’s best friend is a straight man who is hurt that Russell won’t talk to him about his dates. There is a suggestion that perhaps Russell might be a bit ashamed of being gay, or at least, not as comfortable as he should be. But then again, neither is in-your-face Glen. The problem, whatever it is, isn’t society’s any more – even if society isn’t and may never be entirely as accepting as it pretends.
Some of the dialogue was cracking, and it reminded me in its freshness of the early 60s New Realist Cinema – the so-called kitchen sink dramas. Though of course it’s 50 years on so it’s a lot fruitier: “ERE YOU LOT!” Glen yells from Russell’s window half way up a tower block at some delinquents down below. “STOP FUCKING ABOUT OR I’LL COME DOWN THERE AND RAPE YOUR HOLES!!”
This might have been deliberate since ‘Weekend’ was set in Nottingham, and sometimes seemed to be a kind of 21st Century gay update of the early 60s Neo Realist classic ‘Saturday Night Sunday Morning’ (there’s even footage of Russell riding around on his bike like Albert Finney). Or ‘A Taste of Honey’ in which Geoff (Murray Melvin) meets a kind of angry gay male version of Jo (Rita Tushingham).
My only criticism – and of course I would have one – would be that unlike those 60s Neo Realist films I don’t really believe the film or the actors have much to do with the city they’re supposed to be living in. Nottingham is just a (very nicely shot) extra in the film. New/Glen you can maybe buy as a provincial gay, but Tom/Russell is supposed to be a working class foster kid working as a lifeguard and living in a high rise council flat, but often sounded posh. Even the way his flat is decorated looks a bit like a Shoreditch hipster’s idea of how a ‘poor provincial persons’ flat would look.
And those beards too seemed more East London than East Midlands. But if ‘Weekend’ had been set in East London perhaps it wouldn’t have seemed quite so ‘real’.
Weekend is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 19th March
🙂 really nice to catch you again… and you give me hope that one day I may see a bearded Mark.
Clean shaven will be all the rage soon and you may have to grow a beard to remain special.
Lovely to hear from you, Marcelo. And how charming that it should have been beards that brought us together again!
There’s an interview with the two beardy boys and their beardy director somewhere online. I don’t think you need worry about a snappy, fabulous sequel – I suspect they’re all far too middle class to come out shrieking.
Oh, and it’s not that I *can’t* grow a beard, I *won’t* grow a beard. I always want to be special, you see.
I just watched Weekend and thought..hmmm.. I haven´t been to Marks blog in ages. I wonder if he´s reviewed it. And yes, the man who, apparently can´t grow a beard – did watch it. And he liked it.
I watched it and liked it too! This can´t be right. Although it is 2012 and things always get really good in those last minutes before the end.
I didn´t cringe once. It felt good watching it. And so, I´m kind of even more happy to know that we may not agree on beards, but that we can agree on this movie.
Just please – no sequels, in which the protagonists end up “Fabulous!” talking about Gaga and go to a bear run where Tom Cullens character ends up in a bear beauty contest.