When we talk about gay equality, sometimes we use phrases like, "Well, if it were straight people, then..." (you can replace "straight" with any other group supposedly less marginalized than gays, depending on the speaker's point of view). Well, if Andrew Haigh's Weekend were about straight people, then...it simply couldn't exist. There would be nothing to talk about -- over the course of their 48-hour, club-spun fling in England, Weekend's two principle characters, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) barely deviate from the subject of their homosexuality and how it relates to themselves and each other and the larger world. Peppered with male nudity and extended explicit sex scenes, this is as gay as it gets.
The message is simple: we can't yet reverse the gay/straight binary, because there's still so much to work through on our side. We're years away from something as matter-of-fact as a gay version of Before Sunrise, a film to which Weekend has been compared. Maybe it's a bit of self-obsession, but it's hard not to talk about being gay if you are gay, especially upon meeting (and hooking up with) a fellow gay guy. When the majority of the world still feels so behind, still thinks that rudeness (or worse) is a socially acceptable way to deal with a person who is different, you talk about it to cope, to reassure, to strengthen. Language is one of the few things we do have -- the belief that everyone is entitled to have an opinion on your humanity and rights confirms as much.
This film has a good grasp on what it is like to be gay in 2011, this bizarre moment of transition where you won't always get beat up for showing gay affection in public, but you could very well be confronted with disdain. By positioning two characters of the same sexuality that possess different ideas of what equality means and what makes for "radical" behavior, Haigh creates a meditation that asks as much as it proclaims. Glen is comfortable with his sexuality to an almost militant extent; Russell is uncomfortable to the point of being virtually closeted. Glen's is angry, Russell is wary. They don't always agree, but through events that took place in these characters' pasts and from what plays out on screen, they are both justified. This bizarre moment in time makes for really complicated interiors.
Weekend is quiet and intimate, and that makes sense because of how introverted communication has become. Yes, clubs are still frequented, but because of the Internet and Grindr, they are no longer a necessity (and in fact "non-scene" is sometimes worn as a badge of pride). We can get to the point of two people interacting a lot more quickly. For that, Weekend, a film about two people talking, feels perfectly of its time, in the way that Larry Kramer's Faggots and Andrew Holleran's Dancer from the Dance must have felt very much of their time in the late '70s.
T hose books feel largely under-read at this point, and that's for maybe for the same reason that Weekend could only exist at this moment. I don't expect Weekend to have much reach in the future, or even now for that matter -- despite it oozing with humanity, there is not much allegory to be had. It is what it is: two gay dudes talking about being gay and having gay sex. The best case scenario for this document of its time is that we'll return to it in a few years, see the internal conflict, the frustration, the still pervasive homophobia, and realize that it has since become obsolete.