‘Weekend’: More than a ‘gay film’

Tom Cullen and Chris New star as two lovers in “Weekend.”

British filmmaker Andrew Haigh’s first feature, “Weekend,” follows Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glenn (Chris New), whose one-night stand one Friday turns into two days of surprising intimacy and depth — starting with Glenn whipping out a tape recorder to interview Russell the morning after for an art project. After a successful summer on the U.S. film festival circuit, picking up top prizes in a number of cities, “Weekend” makes its U.S. debut this month before heading back to the U.K. to premiere at the London Film Festival in October. And while a number of those awards come from gay and lesbian film festivals, Haigh says he’s hoping to avoid being the “gay film” label as much as possible.

Where did the tape recorder idea come from?

I read somewhere some article where someone had interviewed someone the morning after they’d had sex, and I just thought it was a nice way to introduce Glenn’s character. He’s asking all these incredibly intimate questions, but at the same time he’s managing to strip the conversation of any real intimacy by just having this barrier between them. And I suppose I just quite liked that idea. It’s also quite unusual. If someone did that to you the morning after you’d been with them, you’d be like, “What the f—? What are you doing?” And I like the fact that Russell’s reaction to it is, “Oh, OK. I’ll go along with this.”

The film’s dialogue feels almost improvised.

That’s the kind of tone I was going for, so it felt just completely natural. Natural conversation is not like film conversation, normally. You watch something like “Juno,” and everything is, like, perfect. And in real life, you don’t speak like that. You stop and you start, you interrupt and you talk over each other, and you forget what you’re saying and you kind of make no sense.

How do you deal with the inevitable “gay film” label?

It’s so hard. Sometimes it really annoys me, and I’m never entirely sure why it annoys me, but it does. Even from people that don’t see a lot of gay films, they have an idea of what a gay film is in their head. And if someone says this is another gay film, it might put people off, and I just want people to see the film. It just annoys me that people are so desperate to pigeonhole something. To me, it’s a film about gay people. Whether that makes it a gay film, I don’t know.

How much of you is their in either of the two characters?

There’s certainly an element of me in Glenn’s character. Maybe not so much now, but when I was a bit younger I quite liked to do that kind of thing. And it is kind of a defense mechanism in many ways — constantly trying to push and push and push other people without really wanting to be pushed himself. For me they kind of show two sides of not just a gay kind of struggle as such, but just in terms of that struggle almost between freedom and security. It’s like two sides of a coin. I think I’m somewhere in between and I kind of vary between being more like Glenn and more like Russell. I think it would be exhausting to be one or the other completely.

Is it strange to have the film released in the U.S. before it comes out in England?

Yeah, it’s really strange. The fact that it’s done well in America and it’s coming out before is really unusual — especially with an English film. I think in many respects it’s good for the film as well, because England is such an unusual, strange place that they like to think that people like us somewhere else before they’ll admit to liking us over here.


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