A living participant in the Stonewall riots called Andrew Haigh’s Weekend the most accurate cinematic depiction of a gay relationship that he’s ever seen. It follows a three-day romance between Glen and John, two handsome Brits who meet at a gay bar. Indeed, SXSW audiences have already voted Haigh’s film as the best feature-length among 18 other “new and emerging” directors—both for its intimate camera work and its matter-of-fact depiction of sex, drugs, and anti-gay prejudice. But as Weekend now seeks a distributor, the film’s success depends on how well can it woo audiences outside the artsy festival.
If A Beautiful Thing and Get Real spring to mind when you think of gay British film, know this: Haight’s Weekend is nothing like those decade-old rom-coms. Weekend has not so much as a single pop song in it. Instead it reveals Glen and Russell everyday lives. They discuss gay bashings, cheating, and marriage equality but they’re not central to the plot. Glen and Russell aren’t closeted teenagers, they’re young men, a quiet lifeguard and an aspiring artist. They’re everyday people instead of heroic figures tackling teenage melodrama, AIDS, drug addiction, and club music.
They also binge drink, smoke weed, snort coke, and get it on. It all seems very “mumblecore” at first, but Haigh’s honest depiction of drugs, sex, and vulnerability feel authentic and similar to many modern relationships, both gay or straight. The director says, “It’s not just about being gay, it is just about these two guys trying to fit into the world and [concerning that, it] doesn’t matter what your sexuality is… Everybody has something that they’re trying to do with their lives and trying to work out how to achieve what they want and get what they want.”
Haigh has submitted Weekend to queer and straight film festivals with hopes that it continues to gain an audience. Nevertheless, the director admits that many straight film lovers still won’t go to see “a gay film” like his because they believe such films aim specifically towards gay audiences and issues. A Beautiful Thing and Get Real both only ever gained limited success because they were geared towards gay-friendly audiences. And while gay TV characters continue chip away the prejudices of a home audience, they do so only by featuring gay characters in a larger straight context.
Weekend‘s success depends partially on how well Haigh’s audiences connect to his characters and how well his eventual distributors market the film. But Haigh’s film won’t build a lasting bridge between straight audiences and gay characters; not all on its own. His bold yet understated work merely adds a significant part to the overall structure of the possibilities of gay film and one can expect more nuanced, startling, and honest portrayals of gays in film as a result.