WATCH: Weekend Breaks Out Of The Gay Film Festival Ghetto

Director Andrew Haigh’s acclaimed gay-romance indie, Weekend, opens September 23 in New York and September 30 in Los Angeles, with screenings in Chicago, San Francisco and other cities to follow as autumn rolls on. (It’ll also be available on-demand on September 30, but you really should see it in a theater if you can.)

Haigh’s follow-up to 2009’s Greek Pete, an unflinching look at the lives of London rent boys, Weekend is the unconventional story of Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two Brits who meet in a club Friday night just before closing and proceed to get drunk and get high—and share sex and conversation—over a course of one fateful weekend.

The film won the Audience Award at the Toronto Inside Out Film Festival, the Emerging Visions Audience Award at SXSW and the International Grand Jury Prize at OutFest, among other accolades. And unlike most queer films that attract a tiny, devoted audience for their limited big-city theatrical runs but get little critical attention, this one’s already swimming in praise.

From Film Comment’s Amy Taubin:

“… Just when it seemed that it would be unbearable to sit through another movie about identity-as-sex and vice versa, one comes along that’s more precise and more moving than almost all the others. Weekend is something like a Rohmer talkathon punctuated by R-rated sex and set in working-class England. I was as amazed by it as the characters and the actors who play them were by each other.”

and The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott:

“Perfectly realized…The film discovers strong, unexpected currents of emotion and captures, with uncanny sensitivity, the growing affection and self-awareness of his characters.”

Haigh—previously an editor on big-budget films like Gladiator, Hannibal Rising, and Mona Lisa Smile—was determined to make a film that was both universal and unapologetically queer. He told The Guardian:

“I always wanted to make sure Weekend was honest about being gay and didn’t make it more palatable. I just wanted to make sure the story felt like it could be about anybody but also deal with specific gay concerns.

People don’t think the struggles gay people have are worth talking about because everyone’s decided that we’re all equals now. Those struggles are much more subtle now. But the weight of being different does carry on…  Society is changing, but you’ve still got to try and fit in with a straight world.”

This is not one to miss.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: And don’t forget to check out our interview with Weekend‘s director Andrew Haigh from SXSW 2011)