The Best Film on TV this Week

Weekend (2011, Andrew Haigh)

Weekend is not just the best film on TV this week; it’s the best British film I’ve ever seen. (Yes, better than The Third Man). My hunch is this film will divide viewers. Either you’ll reject it outright on the grounds that it’s “too slow” or because “nothing really happens”, or you’ll fall helplessly in love with it in that overwhelming, almost painful way we all experienced during our teenage years. And, perhaps, even later on in our lives.

Weekend is about a guy in his 20s, Russell (Tom Cullen), who has a one-night stand with another 20 something Glen (Chris New). Over the course of a weekend of hanging out, taking drugs and having sex, Russell falls for Glen big-time while Glen repeats his mantra, “I don’t do boyfriends”. We then learn that Glen is about to leave the country; he’s going to Oregon for 2 years to study. This isn’t going to have a Hollywood ending.

The key to the impact this film has is the intimate nature of the performances and the filmmaking. At times I felt almost like an intruder, discreetly watching Russell and Glen slowly dare to reveal more and more aspects of themselves and their experiences. Weekend feels ‘real’ in a way Mike Leigh films always strive for, but (to this viewer) never achieve. This effect is augmented by having unknowns in the lead roles. To me Cullen and New are not giving performances; they are Russell and Glen.

It’s not unusual for a film (or novel or play) to engage us profoundly in the subtleties of a romantic relationship. It is unusual for a film to be so unbearably moving as to leave us emotionally devastated. Incidentally, I feel Weekend supports my long-held view that cinema is not only the equal of literature; it’s frequently better. Watching this film is to look through a window into the lives of others. No other storytelling medium can achieve the same effect.

Finally…

WHAT THE FUCK IS FILM4 DOING SHOWING THIS ARTWORK AT 1.15 IN THE BOLLOCKING MORNING?! Because it’s a low-budget British film? Or (more likely) because it’s about a gay relationship? I mean, who wants to watch that, right?

Sam Bowles

Weekend is showing Sunday 15 February, 1.15am Film4 (Set your video!)

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