I have a real fetish for independent, art house cinema. Being seated in preparation for a film that I have very little knowledge of (from cast and plot to location and cinematography) is a very pleasant, refreshing situation to be in.
Is it a want for spontaneity? Is it a reaction to the inability to ‘expect’?
I don’t know.
All I know is that it excites me and that it happens very rarely. On this particular occasion I’m seated at Manchester’s Cornerhouse (for the first time admittedly) about to take on a picture from which I’ve gathered few facts. A last minute change of plans (and lack of communication with my friend) took me from my home town on a short twenty-odd mile drive to the City to catch a drama whose blurb (again admittedly) unsettled me slightly. ‘Weekend’ is a story of two individuals, Russell and Glen, who after a drunken encounter in a nightclub spend a weekend having sex, doing drugs and ultimately changing each others lives.
The prospect of gay love scenes is one which can unsettle any heterosexual male at least a little. This is no outrageous surprise. And it’s no surprise that a plot of such calibre would have as much, if not more, appeal to the gay community as it would the straight. Inasmuch it surprised me even less to see that the majority of audience members in the small, lecture-theatre-like room were gay couples. I now wondered (as I took my seat) if what I was about to view might be completely over my head in that it was a picture that catered to the quirks and subtleties of homosexuality. Could it be that I had stumbled upon a niche insight into alternative lifestyles? Would I be clueless; a naïve intruder?
With expectations in all sorts of disorder and intrigued by the idea of what I hoped to be (a third admittance) a ‘modern day’ tale of serendipitous relations, I sheepishly began my journey.
Set in what I am now certain to be in and around the Nottingham area (much to the joy of the beaming postgraduate acquaintance by my side) Weekend contributes vast amounts to everything I like about independent cinema. It tackles realistic issues on contemporary subjects with gripping and compelling performances and content. My first reaction, as I plucked and pulled frantically at visual comparisons little more than five minutes in, took me, perhaps a little too obviously, toward the work of Shane Meadows. The stark, grey 70’s architecture and blunt references to everyday working class life in the North pointed directly to a correlation with the likes of Dead Man’s Shoes and This is England. That recognisable, hand held, voyeuristic camera work that we associate heavily with lower budget indie-cinema sits comfortably with themes that address the real, the everyday, the quotidian. There’s something very comforting about being able to relate to a scene or scenes in a film. It spurs on a completely different level of interest, one which enables a viewer to transcend his/her seat and float in memory, or recognition. They become a participant or, perhaps more intimately, an accomplice. I found myself relating many a scene to my own experiences from adolescence to early adulthood; the tension and timid interfacing between two soon to be lovers, the first meaningful kiss and the complexities of love and lust, binge drinking, hangovers, drug use and morning coffee. These are beautiful aspects of life, aspects which are innocently taken for granted when we involve ourselves in them, mainly because they hold importance purely within the instance that they happen. They are catalysts for the becoming of all aspects of a relationship, good and bad.
I think it’s this focus on the ‘real’ that kept me really very involved with the plot. Nothing out of the ordinary takes place in the picture and yet we are persuaded into feeling for the couple as they grow closer to one another over the short space of time. Culminating in a heart warming goodbye, Russell and Glen share experiences and open up to one another, both sexually and psychologically. This sad eventuality is one which left me feeling quite despondent and really sympathetic towards their situation.
I am slowly realising myself that the ‘mid-twenties’ age bracket is one in which many young adults struggle to find themselves. It’s a time in life that puts a lot of pressure on an individual. Juggling love, lust, independence and the want to make the right decisions, for the benefit of one’s own future are all incredibly important occurrences, which can certainly bewilder and torment as much as they can enlighten and liberate. For me at least, this realisation touched some intimate nerves and tugged ever so slightly on a heart string or two.
I was very much surprised by how little the physical relationship between the two males bothered me in the end. I think, as an old romantic at heart, Russell and Glen’s situation is one which any person can feel for. The overall themes in this wonderful piece of cinema are themes which have been around since the dawn of human emotion. They are no different from any other love story in which infatuation is cut short. Sometimes life does get in the way of intimacy. Sometimes things can’t necessarily be how you would like them to be. At the risk of spurting the sayings of some sort of life-coach, life goes on. And so with it do the catalysts for aspects of relationships, good and bad.