Monday, November 7, 2011

Andrew Haigh's "Weekend" (2011)

by James Hansen

On first glance, it seems easy to pin Andrew Haigh’s Weekend onto the tired formula of romantic dramas – guy meets girl, eyes cross, sparks and sex, consequence/decision/fallout, doom or reconciliation. Of course, the most obvious “spin” here is that Weekend is distinctly gay. Russell (Tom Cullen) meets Glen (Chris New) at a gay club, they hook up, and so the relationship fall-in/fallout begins. (Make no mistake: many critics have attempted to dilute the film’s gayness in hopes of drawing in scared-straight audiences – a respectable attempt, I suppose, but a misguided one all the same. Yes, folks, this is a Gay movie.) But is this all Weekend has to offer?

If one looks only at the surface, then, perhaps, yes. The formula is evident throughout and becomes even more so as it nears the inevitable conclusion. But where Weekend’s unique power resides is in Haigh’s gaze toward what is neither on the surface nor under it, but the deeply embedded, unspoken tensions in between. This isn’t a space that can be determined by grand formulas, sweeping scale, or grandiose ideas. In fact, it isn’t a realm that can be defined, although it defines. It is where everything happens. It is modern experience. And its identity is found in the subtle minutiae that Haigh astutely observes: an indecisive stutter, the light touch of a hand, a glance through a window, the stirring of instant coffee, the shuffling of emoticons, the clenching of a jaw – in these perfunctory, banal moments, Weekend finds a world waiting, a relationship brewing, a person forming. Yet, oscillating in the unfixed gap between one and another, there is always a sun setting, a night ending, a train leaving.

Here, Weekend reveals itself through these moments, which open further onto its conceit, its “formula” – the weekend. For Russell and Glen, the weekend may indicate the completion of a work week, but it isn’t an end to anything. It is the time when, free from the constraints of labor (lest we be too Marxian), they are free to be themselves in whatever form they want to be. The weekend, then, isn’t an end or a beginning, but it is the very space between these formal constraints of identity (work/not work, hetero/homo, single/couple, union/marriage) – the very same area that Glen explores in his art – that Weekend lives in. On the weekend, there are no tenable solutions to problems. The fracture is too large. Filled with trepidation, the critical, unanswerable question is where to position oneself outside of the gap. Can unassailable romance still be an answer? Can that question even be seriously proposed? In his final moments with Russell, Glen finds no cure, but realizes the appropriate response to the weekend’s symptom. With a hug, a kiss, and, the tables turned, an indecisive stutter– “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.” And on he goes.

1 comment:

Charles G Johnson said...

Brilliant comparison of the nature of weekend vs. Glen's art project thesis. In the film there's also a subtle use of the colors red, yellow, and black...Glen wears a black T and a yellow hoodie when they first meet, Russell's lifeguard uniform consists of yellow T and red shorts, Glen's second hoodie is red, and his third is black. The hoodies are always shown as he leaves the apartment block. At first departure he doesn't look back, upon second departure glances back, and upon third departure, fully stops and looks back. At the train station he's sporting the yellow hoodie, black jacket, and red backpack. And guess what colors comprise the train that takes him away??? Yes!