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May 14, 2012 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Bent

Not your average morning after

  • A review of Weekend (2011)
  • Dir: Andrew Haigh
  • Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New
  • Running time: 97 minutes. 

Touching the issue of sex in film can prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. They hit the extremes; attempting to be more ‘realistic’ unfortunately paints sex as our antagonist, something to be remorseful for, while the wishful rom-com gives false hope that a one-night-stand can be the Westley to your Buttercup.

Can people really have sex without the proverbial strings entangling them, and, if not, does the emotion precede the deed or follow?

Andrew Haigh’s Weekend wonders just that. Russell (Tom Cullen), a young gay man, politely leaves a friend’s dinner feigning tiredness and stops by a gay nightclub on his way home. He appears happy, comfortable even, if a little awkward at both dinner and dancing, but ultimately winds up taking Glen (Chris New) home. The following morning, once the liquid courage has evaporated, Glen, confident and spirited, tapes Russell’s thoughts on the previous night, the naked confessions for an art project that, in contrast, seem oddly invasive.

And perhaps their personalities, too, serve for a level of unease and intrigue during the taping. Russell, gentle and calm, is not as boisterous as Glen, whose politically savvy mind makes him a pleasure to watch. When they meet later in the day, we finally see the two having sex, both revelling in the other’s body and silently enjoying the company that follows. As the weekend progresses, Glen and Russell spend their time having sex and taking drugs, with poignant confessional interludes and quarrels.

I hesitate to call Haigh’s story simply another gay film, a relief from the Hollywood fantasy of star-crossed cisgendered lovers, whose dalliances develop from post-coital chatter to marriage in 90 minutes. While Russell and Glen are not perfect, they argue the same question from different points of view. Regardless of gender identity or orientation, the two dance around the fundamentals of love and self: am I who I want to be, and be loved?

The problem with other films is they cloud sex, overpowering it with depressing ripple effects or delivering the Sparknotes abridged version. Haigh’s Weekend celebrates it, removing the gray and leaving us satisfied. Sex isn’t always easy, but the relationship developed in Weekend is unassuming, quiet and affectionate without being too bold. It’s honest, not as a gay film, but as mirror on a situation we’re never too far from.

[ssba]

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