Sauntering at a convincing, leisurely pace
Mirroring some of the same Nottingham locations that featured in Karel Reisz’s kitchen-sink classic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Andrew Haigh’s intimate second feature takes place over the course of a single weekend in London. Our two protagonists, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) meet in a nightclub, and what begins as a one-night stand quickly deepens over the course of a lazy, hazy weekend, as the pair lounge around in bed, wander the streets and talk well into the night. Charged by alcohol and the occasional dab of the white stuff, they find a genuine interest in one another that only comes from being mutually at ease. Reminiscent of Richard Lintlaker’s talky twosome Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), but without the force-fed credibility and cardboard verbiage that made them feel trite, the conversations in Haigh’s film feel far less contrived, and are always tied to the exploration of a growing affinity, with each character testing the waters of the other’s sensibilities.
While Haigh’s first feature, Greek Pete (2009), was a documentary about male escorts in London, Weekend, despite featuring a gay couple, is a move away from the potential pigeon-holing of gay-themed cinema and towards a universal terrain of desire, hope and disappointment. The result is a very convincing portrait of the first days of a new relationship, and Haigh utilises the long, crisply framed takes and nuanced and sincere performances well. This is a film confident enough to take its time, and is full of idle, languid moments which are transformed by the context into instances of discovery and detailed revelations of personality.
Only Glen’s imminent departure for a new life in the US, which limits the relationship to a single weekend, smacks of familiar filmic drama, occasioning a will-he or won’t-he get on the train finale that edges the film towards the clichés of romantic comedy. However the director deftly steers clear of a crowd-pleasing easy-option resolution, and keeps the film rooted in a reality that squarely and knowingly avoids being larger than life and instead focuses on the quirks and textures of contemporary British life.
Dir: Andrew Haigh; UK drama, 2011, 96 mins; Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race, Laura Freeman
Premieres July 26
Playing in selected theatres nationwide