On Wednesday 23rd May 2012 CineGuernsey certainly fulfilled what one of their main aims is, to bring a different sort of cinema to Guernsey and give the island’s film lovers a chance to explore things they may not otherwise encounter.
For their latest screening the local film group had chosen the 2011 movie Weekend, written, edited and directed by Andrew Haigh and starring Tom Cullen and Curtis New.
The film is a grown up romantic comedy (not a Richard Curtis type affair, or worse a Hollywood style one) set, as the title suggests, over a weekend in Nottingham and exploring the relationship between two men who meet in the club on a Friday night, have a one night stand and then develop more of a relationship than either were expecting.
As a film I really wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it going in, I’ll be the first to admit that real world dramas focusing on character are not my usual choice of viewing and I was aware this film had been grouped into a genre termed Gay Cinema, and this was something I had previously never explored.
Well I needn’t have had any concerns, and they were soon washed away as we were thrust into the life of Russell as he headed to a friend’s house for a curry and an evening of drinking and light drug use and he, and the other characters presented, came across as real people and, at several points throughout the movie, left me feeling like I was almost intruding in being allowed such a close up view of their lives.
This aspect of being something of a voyeur in a real life scenario is what really struck me about the film. This is not a picture of grand romantic gestures and the associated histrionics that Hollywood seems to like to put alongside them. Rather it is an exploration of a pair of men at different stages of their lives but both of which, I feel, have a lot to say – both to people coming to terms with their sexuality, going through relationship issues (straight or gay) or just interested in expressions of human interaction.
There were points in the film at which the voyeur aspect changed and we became directly ‘there’ with the characters, as is more common in motion pictures, but seemingly in a more intimate way than usual. This happened, at first, when Russell was alone, we watched him preparing for a night out, on the night bus, at a nightclub alone and then at work as a lifeguard (which included an amazing shot of him alone in the centre of a very wide shot by the pool).
However, once his and Glenn’s relationship begins to build this feeling of being with the characters switched to the scenes when Russell and Glenn were alone together, taking us right into the heart of their discussions and using the language of cinema to tell us what is going on, rather than relying on distracting direct exposition and we spend seemingly the whole of their Saturday night with them, and I genuinely did feel as if I was somehow part of the scene (albeit a silent part).
As the film continues this voyeuristic distant view and up close view switches again, but explaining further would lead to spoilers, but it continues to create an interesting way of telling the story using cinema rather than relying on obvious dialogue.
As I say, I previously haven’t explored much in the way of gay cinema, however any stereotypes I may have had in my head of the style were swept away by Weekend as, while it seemed to deal with various issues faced by the gay community and gay people, it did so in a way that embedded them in the story so they weren’t jarring and out-of-place as they may have been if the film had been created in a different way.
As with all CineGuernsey presentations we were also treated to short introduction to the film. This time round it came from Claire Mockett, one of the people behind the Guernsey LGBT group on Facebook and @GuernseyLGBT on Twitter. Claire presented a brief introduction to the importance and history of Gay Cinema and how it has effected her in her life in very moving and emotional way which gave some context to what we were about to watch.
Once again CineGuernsey have brought something interesting, thought-provoking and, in this case, funny and entertaining, to Guernsey that we would not normally have the chance to see.
As a follow-up to watching the film, myself and Claire recorded a podcast taking a look at the film and elaborating on Claire’s introduction, taking a brief look at gay cinema:
A shorter version of this review appeared in the Guernsey Press on 30th May 2012: