A gay drama, a sad romance, the excellent Weekend centers on two young men who meet in a club one Friday night. Over the next couple of days, between sessions of lovemaking, they talk earnestly about, well, being gay - how it affects, in a practical sense, the way they live in the world. Should we hold hands in the street? Answer: In the midsize city of Nottingham, England, where the film takes place, maybe not. Gays who openly display affection risk being jeered at, or worse.
There's also, in a cocaine-fueled argument, bracing talk of gay marriage. Marriage is an article of faith among supporters of gay rights these days, but Glen (Chris New), cynical and articulate, is skeptical. "We have the chance to make up our own shit!" he says of gays and their traditions. "We don't need to sanction our relationships!" I think Glen loses the debate to Russell (Tom Cullen), who's compassionate where Glen is bitter. But that doesn't mean the argument isn't a healthy one.
At first these discussions didn't seem like a big deal to me. They were so familiar. I've talked about this stuff many times with other queer folk, with my boyfriend. But watching Weekend, it slowly dawned on me: I've never heard gay people in a movie talk like this - the way actual gay people do nowadays. That these characters speak with such authenticity and passion is a triumph for Andrew Haigh, who wrote, directed and edited this smart film. It's perhaps the best gay-themed movie I've seen.
Not that the competition is fierce. Gay cinema is a wasteland. I've watched too much lazy, earnest trash like The Broken Hearts Club and But I'm a Cheerleader, so I'm grateful when a major statement like this one comes along. I rank it up there with the superb 1986 seriocomedy Parting Glances, starring Steve Buscemi and Madison actor Richard Ganoung.
Weekend gets so much right. Watching the scene in the gay bar, I cringed in recognition; the quest for the hookup unfolds in agonizing tedium. The frankly depicted sex is lovely, clumsy and true.
Then there is the perceptive, heartbreaking scene the morning after Glen and Russell meet. Glen is leaving Russell's apartment, and they seem about to kiss goodbye. But just then strangers appear in the hall, so the men settle for an ironic handshake. It's a brief moment, a minor humiliation, but it's typical of gay existence outside the big cities. Gays have come so far, but we still hesitate to kiss in public. Is this any way to live?