Out on the Weekend

See the lonely boy,
Out on the weekend
Trying to make it pay.
Can’t relate to joy,
He tries to speak and
Can’t begin to say.

—Neil Young, “Out on the Weekend

It’s Friday night. He’s at his friends’ place having a few drinks. Their daughter, his God-child, is having her fifth birthday party on Sunday afternoon, and they remind him to come along. He says he’s feeling tired, he’ll see them at the party, and heads home. On the way, he changes his mind, gets off the bus a couple of stops early, and heads into a club. He has a few more drinks—too many, eventually—and meets someone, decides he wants to go home with them. He probably needed those extra drinks: he’s (charmingly) shy. Cut to the morning after, at his flat: he’s making coffee in the kitchen, and sheepishly wanders into the bedroom, cups in hand, hungover as shit. For almost the next 48 hours—until the object of his affections leaves on the Sunday afternoon for Portland, Oregon, for a university art course—the two of them are basically inseparable. What was merely a one-night stand quickly blossoms into an out-and-out romance. They fight and have make-up sex; smoke pot and do lines of coke, and discuss just about everything—growing up, their parents, siblings, and friends; early sexual experiences, and so on. In short, they really get to know one another.

Outside of their mesmeric infatuation though, these aren’t exactly the world’s most interesting people, but in Andrew Haigh’s directorial feature début Weekend, Chris New and Tom Cullen imbue Russell and Glen with an irrefutable honesty. Theirs are two of the most beguilingly naturalistic performances in recent memory. The intimate moments they share are deeply felt, and the sex—of which there’s quite a bit in the film’s 97 minutes—is disarmingly frank, but there’s nothing overly moving or innovative here, nothing shocking. Instead, this is a deftly observed, lovingly crafted study of two characters who are, each in their own ways, magnetic.

That aside, the film’s only vaguely original aspect is that it’s about two guys, not a guy and girl. Apart from Glen’s admirably bolshie gay-rights stance—which informs some of the more interesting discussions the couple has and actually carries the narrative at one point but doesn’t, I don’t think, bleed into the film’s own political agenda—many of the conversations in the film have been done better elsewhere (Before Sunrise/Sunset, for but one recent example). Glen’s possibly made-up art project (tape-recording the aftermaths of his sexual trysts—morning-after reflections on the night before) might seem too convenient a narrative ploy, something to flesh out what would otherwise just be an hour and a half of two people getting to know each other—but somehow it just works, especially when it wraps around itself in the film’s final moments.

See this low-budget triumph not because it breaks new ground or because it’s emotionally devastating—it doesn’t, really, and it isn’t—but because its twin lead performances are so fantastically sincere. It’s a small film about small moments, with accented, glorious highs and melancholy, shallow lows, painted over in comparatively broad strokes: Russell’s compelling shyness in the blushing throes of new love; Glen’s incessant needling and his reluctant, momentary unwillingness to say goodbye; the mundane quotidian things—trying on a new pair of sneakers, for example—transformed marvellously into quietly reflective truths.

Weekend is in cinemas now.

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