In Search of a Gay Film Review – Weekend (2011)

weekend-movie-poster

Here it is, Gentle Reader, my first movie review. As a lover of movies and analysis, please, I welcome your feedback. So without further ado, today I would like to discuss the 2011 film Weekend. Weekend is a film about two gay men who find each other through a one night stand, but are soon surprised by their instant connection and by what this connection helps them learn about themselves.

The film is written, edited and directed by Andrew Haigh, who I am sure is about to become a lot more famous for his directing and writing on HBO’s series Looking. (If you are interested, you can find my review of the series Looking here) Weekend stars Tom Cullen as Russell and Chris New as Glen, each superb in their role. Weekend had its world premiere in March 2011 and has since gone on to acquire much critical acclaim, including several award nominations and wins for the film’s director and actors.

If you have not yet seen this film, I strongly recommend it. Its performances are wonderful, the plot is heartfelt and the emotion is relatable. It should be warned that this review does contain some spoilers so beware. Below are my thoughts, for better or worse.

weekend tapesSetting the Scene:

We begin the film by watching Russell bathe, dress and attend a party at his straight friend Jamie’s house. While at the party Russell appears to be disconnect and lonely; distracted and wanting to be somewhere else. He makes an excuse to leave early, ends up at a gay club and eventually meets Glen.

Jump to the next morning, where instead of awkwardly and quickly parting ways, like the end of many gay one night stands, the two men do something rather unusual: they talk about their hookup. Glen, an artist, is working on a project where he tape records people talking about sex, life, etc. and he begins to tape Russell. This rare, morning after reflection on the time they spent together leads both characters down a road of self-reflection that neither saw coming.

Sit Back and Observe:

This film has very few edited cuts within scenes. We, the audience, watch the characters talk, eat, walk and lie in bed for lengthy, uninterrupted shots. These lengthy shots place us as silent observers sitting in Russell’s apartment or the bar simply watching them interact across this three-day affair. All of this creates a calm, real-time feel to their interactions filled with dialogue that feels more like improvisation than pre-written words (It has been noted by the director in interviews that much of the film ended up being improvised by the two leads). The film doesn’t even have background music for setting tones and moods. The only music we ever hear is situational, like at the club.  

russellRussell – The Quiet One:

Russell is more of a watcher than a talker. Mostly he seems lonely, set apart from the world around him and a little sad. His world is quiet, boring and mundane. At one point I found myself wondering, “Do I have as much silence in my life as Russell does?”.

I enjoyed the insecurities he displayed because they were relatable. I could find myself in his awkwardness and shyness, especially in relation to his budding sexuality. He is not necessarily closeted, but he is still ‘trying on’ being gay, like a new suit. He’s still stiff and afraid that he’s not wearing it right. Straight people mostly surround him, and we can feel him longing for a gay outlet.

glenGlen – Not So Quiet:

Glen is the opposite of Russell. He is spontaneous and loud; very outspoken and confident in his sexuality.  Gay people surround him in his daily life, and although his gay friends can annoy him, he seems mostly happy to have the gay company. Glen, like Russell, is searching for meaning and something better in life.  He wants to escape his current location and has plans to move to Oregon in two days. Glen wants to create a new version of himself so he will feel free and not get stuck in ‘old friend concrete’.

Repetition Leads to Change:

This film uses repetition, with slight variance, to display character arches.  Glen leaves Russell’s apartment three times in the film. Each time Russell stands at his window and watches Glen far below as he walks away. The first time Glen simply walks away. The second time Glen looks back as he walks, showing he is thinking about Russell. As Glen walks away the last time, he moves noticeably slower and at one point completely stops and turns around to look back at Russell’s window before he continues on. The variance is subtle but effective in conveying how the characters’ connection is growing.

One final act of repetition worth noting: At the beginning of the film Russell brings Glen coffee as he wakes up, then towards the end of the film, in an almost identically shot scene, Glen brings Russell coffee in bed. This may seem too slight, but it shows their time together has come full circle.

togetherGay in a Straight World:

Weekend opens an important discussion about what it is like to be a minority, homosexual man in a majority, heterosexual world. After their first night together, Glen and Russell hesitate and end up not hugging or kissing as they say goodbye in Russell’s hallway. A straight couple is hovering nearby and the two gays censor themselves because of this.

At several points in the film, Glen verbalizes his frustrations with gay censorship in a straight world. Below is one such expression…

Glen: “Gay people never talk about it ‘sex’ in public unless its just cheap innuendo. I think it’s cause they’re ashamed.”

Russell: “Maybe it’s just they’re a little bit embarrassed.”

Glen: “Isn’t that the same thing?”

This movie raises the question, “How much do straights repress gays and how much do we repress ourselves?”. Regardless, different people react differently in the face of repression. Glen responds by constantly yelling his gayness and individual rights at the world, trying to shock straight people with his voice. Conversely, Russell turns inward, becoming quiet and respectful, not wanting to make himself or straight people feel uncomfortable. At one point in the film, as Russell and Glen are walking around the city talking and flirting, I did find myself wishing they would hold hands.

My Favorite Moment:

After their second night together, Russell and Glen discuss the act of ‘coming out’ to parents. Russell keeps a journal dictating people’s coming out stories as told to him by various gay men he has come across. As an orphan Russell never came out to his biological parents, and Glen thinks that Russell collects other people’s ‘parent’ coming out stories since he does not have one of his own. In a moment that at first feels silly, Glen pretends to be Russell’s dad and Russell tells him he is gay. I was so moved by Glen’s reaction that I would rather show it to you than describe it.

Love Yourself First:

Perhaps this is Weekend’s real message. Russell and Glen seem perfect together, but neither seems completely ready to give themselves fully to someone else. Both characters need to learn to love and accept themselves more fully before they will ever be able to fully love and accept someone else. Love Yourself. A theme that keeps presenting itself in this blog, and I guess in life for anyone who is truly paying attention. Who knows, perhaps after a few years, Glen will return to Russell and they will finally be able to complete each other. We should all be so lucky.

weekend kiss

To learn more about Weekend please check out its page at IMDB or it’s spot at Wikipedia.

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33 thoughts on “In Search of a Gay Film Review – Weekend (2011)

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is so cool! I’m truly honored to be in your list with 9 other wonderful blogs (several of which I follow and read)! I’ve been back at blogging for only a little over two weeks and I am excited and inspired by how many amazing gay blogs there are in this blogosphere. And so many of them are just getting started within the last few months. How exciting to be a part of such a supportive, creative and interesting community. Isn’t it exciting to see so many gay men reaching out to express themselves and connect with others? Again, my friend, thank you!

      • You’re welcome. I love your blog it’s just so interesting and there are many parallels I can draw between the two of us. It is great to see so many gay men express themselves openly in a warm and friendly community. It can only get better.

  1. This is a great review. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen the movie twice, you opened my eyes to some dimensions I missed. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Thank you, that is kind and exactly what I hope to do: open eyes to additional dimensions. I also find your blog quite fascinating. Thanks for visiting mine.

  2. Well Adam, either film review comes easily to you, or you worked very hard at this. Or both. I loved this film when I first saw it, and have watched it again. I think you’ve really nailed the review, capturing the characters and their interplay and the tonality of the piece. I can’t wait to see what you give us next!

    • Much appreciated! I watched this film for the second time before writing this review (and side note: was really struck by how much I have changed since I first saw it two years ago). Between re-watching the film, taking notes as I watched it, organizing my thoughts, writing the review and then endlessly proofreading (I am a huge proofreader having been an english major), I have to tell you that this did take a while. But it was worth it to hear all the nice reactions from people. And I love this film. I hope to produce many more for you!

  3. A great review of a great film. Thank you, Adam. I saw this about 2 years ago and loved it. Your review gave me another way to think about what the movie does. I was so caught up in my reaction to the characters and their story that I didn’t pay much attention to the messages that, I see now, the film contains. Well done, young man!

    • Thanks, Ed. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. It means a lot since I find yours to be endlessly fascinating. Revisit the film and watch it again if you have the chance. I’m sure you will find new things you missed before. It’s so great.

  4. I forgot about this film. Watched it a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. Reading this post has made me want to watch it again.

  5. I saw this film on a date in 2012? Or late 2011. My date was a Scottish man with such a deep brogue, I had trouble understanding him. I loved the film and the ending made me sob so hard (some alcohol may have been involved) which was totally embarrassing and probably explained why I never saw said Scottish man again. A very tender look at how gay men who are completely different can form such a deep connection.

    • I was literally just commenting on one of your blog posts. I love your story about the Scottish man. I’m literally deaf in one ear and thick accents can be rough, can’t they? They can be sexy as hell, but if I can’t understand them, whats the point? Sorry that didn’t work out for you. It’s probably for the best. I could see this film making me cry too, under the right circumstances. Thank you for the compliment.

      • Yeah, for some reason I seem to date a lot of men with incomprehensible accents; there’s been Irish, Scottish, English and deep broad Aussie… I am looking to add French to my collection but they seem to be in short supply here in Melbourne… 🙂 I love my men with accents…

    • My Friend! I was missing you! I know it’s only been a few days, but its good to see you! Thank you for the nomination! You flatter me! I hope you know how much I enjoy reading your blog as well! I’ve seen a lot of people discovering your blog over the last few days as I’ve been searching the blogosphere. Congratulations, you deserve the recognition!

      • Thank you, as do you my friend! I appreciate the shout out the other day, and wanted to return the favor—I hope you get a lot more traffic to your wonderful blog! Ps. I am looking forward to watching the movie you have suggested today—it is available on my Netflix account 😉

      • That’s how I watched it, on Netflix! Please let me know what you think after you watch it. I will be curious about your thoughts! The next review I am writing will be available on Netflix as well!

  6. I have not seen this film before but this review has definitely got me in the market for going to rent it! I really need to see this film now. 🙂

    • I think you will really like it. If you do check it out let me know your thoughts please! And if you ever have any suggestions for films I should check out and maybe review, feel free to share them with me. I love input and suggestions. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog.

  7. Brilliant movie and fantastic review. You really captured the raw beauty and charm of the film! I just love these unknown gems, they’re different from what you usually see and that’s what makes it special. Watching these short romance movies a couple of years ago kinda reassured me that one day I will share little moments with my partner, just like Glen and Russel. And I can’t even begin to describe to you how amazing that feels. Please write more reviews! ahaha

    • I thank you so much for those kind words! I agree with you, these independent films have so much more room to inspire us. The director gets to have more say without all the large studio mogols sticking their noses in and ruining the creativity. Plus, it’s important for us to have well written and truthful films out there so we know that we are not alone. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and commenting!

      • Sorry, for not replying sooner—things have been a little busy lately. I finished the movie and could relate to a lot of the scenarios. What I liked most about the film was that it talked about many LGBT issues as the couple got to know each other, and also how the film showed many similarities and differences between being gay in the United States verses in Europe. I thought it really encompassed the characters dealing with these issues, while leaning on each other for support. I appreciated its honesty—thank you again for sharing it with all of us! Looking forward to your next movie review!!!

  8. Thanks so much for this Adam, I watched “Weekend” over the weekend 🙂 I really enjoyed this entire movie, from the topics (which I relate to in so many ways) to the dialogue (which is fresh and organic) and doesn’t seem rehearsed at all. I see so much of myself in Russell but secretly want to be Glen. Thank you for making me watch the movie. 🙂

    • Liam, you are very welcome, Sir. Thank you for taking the time to let me know what you thought of the film! I’m really glad that I chose this film to review. It is easy to write about something you enjoy. I agree with everything positive you said about this film. I secretly want to be Glen as well! 🙂 Have you watched the television show ‘Looking’? That is my newest review and I think it is definitely worth a watch. Especially if you enjoyed ‘Weekend’! My review of ‘Looking’ is here – http://tinyurl.com/mvh8ayj – in case you are interested! Be well! Thanks again!

      • It was a very good movie. I really did enjoy it and I was so happy to read your review.

        I’m definitely going to check out “Looking” when I have a chance.

  9. Pingback: In Search of a Gay Television Show Review – Looking (Season One) | In Search Of Adam

    • Hey, Cary. Thank you for commenting on this post. I completely agree, this film is beautiful. I love that it can reach such a large audience via Netflix. Thanks again for your support!

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