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Movie Reviews




Released: November 4th 2011 (UK)

Directed By: Andrew Haigh

Starring: Tom Cullen, Chris New

Certificate: 18 (UK)

Reviewed By: Jason Coyle

There is a funny story about Hollywood producer Robert Engelman who boiled down the pitch for a movie he was producing to just four words. The film was called Man’s Best Friend and was about a dog genetically mutated by the intelligence community that turns against its masters.
The pitch was simple: it’s Jaws with Paws! He walked away with a cheque on the spot. The film is largely forgotten at this stage and comes with a warning for that kind of high concept pitch: when you reduce a film to a couple of words there is a risk of narrowing audience interest.

The reductive pitch that has become attached to Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend is “the gay Before Sunrise”. One can’t help thinking that this is a title that could only harm the box office chances of the film. If you are not a fan of a film such as Before Sunrise (I am, but many are not), a gay version would not have you rushing to the cinema. Of course, once the word gay is predominantly displayed in the description it can suddenly become a niche film such as a period drama, watched by a particular demographic. This would be a real shame as Weekend is one of the most beguiling and beautiful films to have been recently released.

The story is simplicity itself: one evening Russell (Tom Cullen) leaves a house party at his friends and on a whim heads to a club where he meets Glen (Chris New). They decide to go back to Russell’s flat together. The two of them spend the next couple of days together before a decision has to be made regarding their respective futures. This is pretty much it, story-wise, but this film is less about story and more about feeling and tone. Director Haigh has made a film that doesn’t really stick to the traditional three act structure. It is a loose and organic film with characters that drive the film and not the plot. This happens in film more rarely than you think these days and it is a joy to see the film develop this way. There is a genuine sense that you cannot guess how this film is going to play out and this is down to the director’s confidence in his script and his actors. The style of the film suggests that some of the dialogue was improvised. It would certainly fit the character development that happens throughout.

The two lead actors are excellent, filling their roles with real people: the type of people that exist in the world and not only on screen. Cullen, in particular, is wonderful as the sensitive Russell, who gives off a feeling of loneliness with tiny gestures and longing glances. It is a performance of some depth and skill. The cinematography by Urszula Pontikos is beautiful, with some stunning night time shots of the characters framed in the tiny window of Russell’s apartment building against the sky. There is also some great hand held shots which bring a wonderful intimacy to proceedings.

Overall, Weekend is a film that should be seen by as large an audience as possible. This is a film about people meeting that will resonate long after the final credits roll. The story is universal and about the most basic of human needs: the need to connect with someone special. That is more than you can say about Man’s Best Friend.

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