MUBI Movies: WEEKEND (2011)

The transformative power of small, intimate moments.

MUBI is a streaming service catering to cinephiles who believe in quality over quantity. Each day, MUBI adds a new film to its library, where it will stay for 30 days, after which it circulates out and gives room for another new entry. Throughout 2018, we will highlight one MUBI movie per month to help illustrate the catalog’s breadth and importance.

Sometimes a film doesn't need a strong plot. Sometimes cinema doesn't need to speak to monumental events or melodrama, but instead we as viewers can be exposed to characters who feel real, living through scenarios that are relatable and comparable to our own lives. These aren't usually the most popular films, but they do often reveal particularly potent truths of human existence, leaving impressions on their audiences that feel authentic. Andrew Haigh is a director who excels at portraying these lived-in experiences, and his second film, 2011's Weekend is a moving testament to the power that sudden relationships can have in our lives.

The film opens on Russell (Tom Cullen) attending a Friday night house party, but he leaves early to turn in for the night. On a whim, he goes to a gay bar and brings home Glen (Chris New), a somewhat eccentric man who, first thing the next morning, insists that Russell recount their one night stand into a recorder so that Glen may use the recording in a developing art project. As the pair spend time together, they start to realize a bond, but with Glen planning to leave Nottingham for America on Sunday, their time is short.

Were this a less naturalistic film, it would be easy to imagine Russell or Glen as the other's Manic Pixie Dream Boy, magically appearing in one another's lives to fix each other's perceived faults and push the other to complete an arc into adulthood. However, Andrew Haigh sidesteps this issue by leaning into the reality of his characters, painting them as flawed humans who come to support one another but aren't dependent on each other's influence or entirely transformed by their new relationship. As we spend time with the men over the course of the weekend, we come to realize that Russell has a reticence toward being publically gay, even though he isn't ashamed of his sexuality and wants relationships, while Glen is much more open about his sexual identity and makes a point of being a part of his queer community, but he's been hurt by relationships in the past and isn't sure how to navigate a new romantic attraction. These traits and flaws are complementary and are a large part of what draws Russell and Glen to one another, but they aren't out to fix one another. Though their parting is inevitable, the point of seeing this weekend play out is seeing how their mutual gravity has the potential to push them into slightly new orbits, even should those paths never cross again.

It's also worth noting that Haigh's dialogue functions as an engaging discussion of how queer individuals cope with heteronormativity, with Russell and Glen representing opposing coping mechanisms that aren't necessarily wholly positive for those who ascribe to them. There is definite safety in keeping one's sexuality discreet, if not secret, in a society where heterosexual relationships are considered the default and norm, but Glen rightfully points out that Russell's reticence to be proud of himself reaffirms the cultural perception that he should be ashamed. Conversely, Glen is unabashedly gay in public, not being confrontational to the outside world but still being openly affectionate with dates in ways that heterosexual couples would consider normal, an act he considers radical in its own way (which it is). Yet he also rejects the idea that relationships can be permanent, partially driven by a bad break-up but also by a questioning of monogamy as a socially mandated construct. These contrasting worldviews don't amount to a resolution or mutual conclusion, but they raise ideas for the audience to ponder along with the protagonists, particularly should the audience not be queer themselves and therefore be less likely to have not taken their sexuality for granted.

Weekend could easily be written off as slight and devoid of purpose from audiences more accustomed to definition and predictable structure in their dramas, but as an exploration of these characters and their relationships to each other and themselves, Weekend speaks to human truths in a way that leaves a lasting impression. Andrew Haigh's screenplay is lithe and efficient, but he allows his characters the space to breathe and speak their minds, coming together for a glorious moment of mutual growth before spinning off back into their own lives again. There is power in transformative moments, and all it might take is a weekend to give you something new to think about. Or, in this case, 97 minutes and a subscription to MUBI, where you can watch the film now.

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