Fresh British talent is born in Andrew Haigh, who emerged from this year’s SXSW festival, awash with praise for his 2nd feature film, Weekend, which was quickly named the ‘buzz film’ of the festival, and given the audience award.
Here in the UK, critics are calling Haigh “Top British talent” and applauding his surprising success at the box office, as the low-budget gay romance grossed £32, 919 in its opening weekend.
Even the American Psycho himself, Mr Bret Easton Ellis is calling the film “the greatest film about gay men ever made”.
Set in some of the same Nottingham locations as Karel Reisz’s kitchen-sink classic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Weekend follows Glen and Russell as their one-night-stand turns into something more meaningful. Over 48 hours we watch their relationship grow as they bare all (literally) and show how windows of opportunity can open up in our lives, if only for fleeting romances.
The tenderness and romance between the couple is more convincing and believable than I have seen in many a Hollywood flick, drawn from the easiness and unforced quality of the action, giving a heightened sense of realism.
Pillow talk, stolen kisses and the tiny moments of intimacy are what bring the film to life.
Haigh’s style feels like real-time, with lingering looks and long conversations playing out to reveal the characters true selves. He shows the mark of a good director, with the confidence to sit two people on a sofa and let the action speak for itself.
The largely improvised script creates authenticity and a thoroughly modern take on a same-sex romantic-drama. The gay characters aren’t campy sparkleicious queens, just frank about their sexuality and sexual exploits, criticising society’s hetero-conditioning and treatment of overt behaviour.
Drawing inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard’s film by the same name, Haigh experiments with cinematography and dialogue by blurring and blocking scenes from view, and having characters talk over each other with mouthfuls of peanuts and cake (at times this reminded me of La Vie au Raunch for its authentic party noise).
I loved its realism and the way it concentrated on everyday behaviour like the potential pitfalls when deciding how to word a text, deleting and retyping x’s, but most of all I loved the chemistry between the actors, Tom Cullen and Chris New, who projected a real spark.
Haigh has said “I want my films to feel like life unfolding in front of your eyes”, and this is certainly what he achieves here, both adding to the British realist tradition and creating the best British queer cinema in a decade.
Weekend is out in cinemas now.