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Dustin Putman

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Weekend  (2011)
2½ Stars
Directed by Andrew Haigh.
Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race, Laura Freeman, Jonathan Wright, Loretto Murray.
2011 – 96 minutes
Not Rated: (equivalent of R for sexual content, drug use and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 3, 2011.
What begins as an intended one-night stand turns into something more in "Weekend," a closely observed if somewhat overpraised romantic drama from writer-director Andrew Haigh. Minimalist and gritty, the film's mumblecore aesthetics are all firmly intact even if its narrative intentions are bogged down by not bothering to confront the characters' very underlying issues that may, in the long run, spell doom for their relationship. Because of this, there is a slight pall of interpersonal doom that hangs over what is meant to be a rather hopeful portrayal of a burgeoning intimacy between two initial strangers. The results are gently sincere but maybe a little misguided, a far cry from the note-perfect, transcendently adorable 1999 gay love story "Trick," which this one reminds of—and pales in comparison to.

Following an evening with his longtime friends and a stop later on at a bustling nightclub, lifeguard Russell (Tom Cullen) awakes the next morning with Glen (Chris New) by his side. Normally an awkward parting of the ways would follow such a hook-up, but Glen, who is working on a mixed-media art project, pulls out a tape recorder and urges Russell to describe in detail the experiences they had the night before. What Russell reluctantly spills draws the two of them closer together. They are different in a lot of ways—Glen is out and secure in who he is, but reluctant to embrace long-term relationships; Russell is more publicly guarded about his sexuality, but yearns for a boyfriend—yet there's also an undisputed connection that makes that feel like a possible fit. Their circumstances, unfortunately, are less than ideal as Glen is preparing to move to the U.S. at the end of the weekend to begin an art study course.

In "Weekend," Russell and Glen are good, sensitive souls—and newcomers Tom Cullen and Chris New make for a copacetic on-screen couple—but they've got their fair share of issues that could hinder their futures. Russell was raised as an orphan until the age of sixteen, while Glen is hot-tempered when he's not agreed with in his own beliefs. Both of them appear to be casual drug users moving beyond the point of mere recreation, a cause for particular pause as their conversations turn more zonky and belligerent the higher they get. They might be a perfect pair sometime down the road, but are they good for each other right now when they clearly have a lot of growing and maturing to do individually? "Weekend" does not attend to this concern, and it is director Andrew Haigh's one notable failing. Nevertheless, there is a quietly touching quality to its progression, and the actions Russell makes at the end even in the face of a whistling off-screen catcall do prove that he, at least, is ready to stop being so afraid of what others will think. This is a positive first step for him, but the last scenes wisely come with no guarantees, single-handedly ensuring the picture's lingering aura of truthfulness.
© 2011 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman