‘Weekend’ a modern romance with mass appeal
Weekend, the opening show of this year’s Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival, comes with a few descriptions pre-attached. Promotional materials call it an “unconventional love story.” The festival-savvy call it “award-winning,” for its accolades at both Outfest 2011 and South by Southwest. Others may call it just “some gay romance,” and pass it off for reasons benign or otherwise.
Here’s a suggested addition: Call Weekend an exemplary romance — of any sort, gay or straight — and a powerful, thought-provoking film in its own right.
In recent years, romantic dramas like Weekend have increasingly been relegated to independent filmmaking, everyday cinema filled by romantic comedies aimed at the lowest common denominator.
Yet Weekend feels like a film that deserves mainstream saturation. It opens on a Friday night in England, with protagonist Russell apathetically heading to a gay bar after visiting his straight friends. By the end of the night, he’s picked up Glen, whom he believes to be just the latest in a string of one-night stands.
Except then he’s not. The two go through the normal, awkward morning-after phase — made additionally strange by Glen’s request that Russell recap the evening into a tape recorder for an art project — but after they exchange numbers, Russell actually uses Glen’s, sending a series of texts Saturday afternoon that brings him back into his life for the weekend.
Just that weekend, though, as Glen shortly reveals. He’s off to Portland on Sunday for the foreseeable future, which means he’ll be out of Russell’s life within about 24 hours.
They make the most of those 24 hours. Glen introduces Russell to his friends. They go on a carnival date. They have sex, of course, although this time it’s more intimate and less incidental. They fight and make up, tell each other secrets, talk about coming out, condense all the “relationship things” into the little time they have.
Glen seems the more well-adjusted; he’s very out, to the point where he’s picking fights with straight men at bars and going on rants about how gays can’t talk about their sex lives in public and how they shouldn’t be seeking marital sanctioning just to conform to regular society. Except behind that bravado and rhetoric there’s a sense he doesn’t quite believe everything he’s saying. There’s a security in pushing against beliefs so you don’t have to develop your own.
Russell is his polar opposite, defined more by silences than shouts. There are the expected ones, when he’s alone in his apartment looking out the window or sitting in the bathtub. But it’s the unexpected silences, when he’s with friends or at work, that resonate. They’re the ones where he’s the only gay in the room, keeping silent and watching moments fly by.
It’s their differences, though, that change them. During that weekend, neither Russell nor Glen truly forgets that they will likely never see each other again come Sunday.
But both of them walk away with a piece of the other, the private or public fraction of self they’ve been cutting out of their own lives. They aren’t quite who they want to be yet, but now they might know how to get there.
The Milwaukee LGBT Film Fest opens with Weekend at the Oriental Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 or $10 for students and seniors; a post-screening reception at Beans and Barley after the film is free with your ticket stub. Visit the festival’s website for more information and the rest of the weekend’s schedule, and visit our preview of the film festival here.