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« On this day: Liz & Dick Divorced, Harry Potter Published | Main | Posterized: Roland Emmerich »
Saturday
Jun252016

Great Moments in Gay - 'This kind of stuff' in Weekend (2011)

In June we're celebrating favorite queer moments in cinema. Here's guest contributor Bill Curran on a pivotal low key scene in Weekend... 


Jamie: "What's going on?"

Russell: "Nothing… nothing's going on."

Pride is hard. We’re in a month filled with delirious rainbow floats, umpteen “Yass Queen” gifs, and appropriately lascivious street dancing down many city streets around the globe, and yet I’d like to pause and consider how pride is not merely happiness or acceptance, but respect. And respect is hard. 

Respect—one’s own worth in relation to others—is the motoring theme behind much of Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011). In this sense, if Weekend can be considered a landmark 21st century film (as indeed it should be, by any number of artistic rubrics), then the pivotal scene is this exchange between Russell (Tom Cullen) and his best (straight) mate Jamie (Jonathan Race). It is the sea change climax before the more expected bittersweet one... 

Jamie: "Well, there obviously is. You going to tell me about it or what?"

Russell: "No, I--it feels weird talking to you about it--I don't know. Sorry." 

Jamie: "Weird? We're best mates, we talk about all kinds of stuff. Come on…"

There’s so much to love and be moved by in this scene, but first, the context: weekend lovers Russell and Glen (Chris New) said their sleepy goodbyes after an intense, final all-nighter. Russell, considerate to a fault, arrives at his best friend’s house for his goddaughter’s birthday party. He is distracted, disengaged, not unlike his Friday night at Jamie’s at the start of the film. But this time a gutted feeling prevails, a feeling that something is about to pass irrevocably by. 

Which makes the cut to this scene against a garage door startling. The self-imposed solitude Russell felt inside breaks with Jamie’s question, and the edit and sound mix into the conversation. Russell’s initial evasiveness is textbook for him, probably his defining trait, lambasted by Glen. Haigh’s direction and Cullen’s performance here are so damn smart: just a single take, non-descript background, Jamie as our point-of-view surrogate, and Russell, locked in a medium shot more focused on his finger sandwich than his friend’s genuine interest. 

 

Russell: "Yeah but we don't talk about this kind of stuff, Jamie. This is not what we do. I've never spoke to you about this kind of stuff."

Jamie: "Yeah, I know." 

Russell, it seems, is content to let the day go by and his best friend off the emotional hook once again. Russell will stomach it. His incredible feelings for Glen, and the heartbreak in its wake, are just not the “kind of stuff” he talks about with the only family he has. 

Jamie’s “Yeah, I know,” cuts deep. What is this kind of shame? What is this kind of embarrassment that Russell and so many gay men and women feel? Trying to answer this question is something Weekend has been building to the entire film.  

Russell: "I don't know Jamie, I don't know, it's… stupid, really. I mean, this guy I've met, Glen… you know, I met him two days ago. He doesn't know me, I don't know him. And he… well, I met him like two days ago. Two days is nothing… I don't know. I feel a bit of a twat, that's all. I think it's just 'cause I'm hung over and tired, and he's going away…" 

Jamie: "Oh, you'll see him when he gets back, wouldn't you?"

Russell: "No. No I won't. He's not coming back. He's moving to America, so… that's it."

Jamie: "Well, what time is he leaving?”

Russell: "Doesn't matter."

Jamie: "No, come on, what time is he leaving? I can run you in the car."

Russell: "What about the cake?"

Jamie: "Don't worry about the fucking cake."

Russell: "Cathy will go nuts."

Jamie: "So? 

Russell: "Louise is going to want you around. I wanna be here for Louise, it's my goddaughter's birthday."

Jamie: "I'll be half an hour. Come on, I'll run you in the car."

It takes Jamie’s offer for Russell to face his pride and have his train platform moment with Glen. The romantic payoff could not happen otherwise. It is not something Russell realizes alone. It’s an exquisite and symmetrical bit of filmmaking and writing here. We exit the scene as abruptly as we came into it, with Jamie’s final line cut swiftly into Russell walking through the train station. 

This is the release Weekend rests on. Nothing dramatically underlined or elevated to grand gesture. As a “gay” film, it is almost sad to realize the quietly radical nature of its most crucial scene: one man asking his friend to say what he means to say. More than a document of a brief encounter, Weekend is about what it means for one’s pride when you can simply, honestly talk. 

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Reader Comments (13)

Hey, Bill! I love "Weekend." It's my favorite film of the decade so far, and this scene is a thing of beauty in a film full of them. It's an un-showy film, but I can summon up so many images from it that speak volumes such as the long shot of the lovers seen through the window of Russell's non-descript high rise apartment. They're in a world within a world, and it takes my breath away. The coming out scene in bed never fails to put a lump in my throat. Thanks for the great write-up.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

This was the exact moment when Weekend went from a film I liked and thought was good to being an all-time favorite. It's just perfect, and the scene at the train station that follows hits all the emotions so hard because of it. Thanks for this.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

"one man asking his friend to say what he means"

That's so key. I always think of the "coming out to your dad" scene when I think of this movie, but it's actually this scene that makes the movie a 10. It's such a sad, low-key reminder of how closed-up you can be when even the smallest amount of shame keeps you from burdening yours friend with your reality, even though it would be no burden at all.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Andrew Haigh is such a great filmmaker with this movie and 45 Years. Can' t wait for more!

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercraver

this scene is incredibly simple and yet so devastating, Andrew Haigh's skill to work with actors in moments so intimate like this one is astonishing

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commentereduardo

You nailed it. This scene is the heart of the movie. Always makes me cry.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

Yeah, this scene wrecked me. Jamie's "I know" just gets to the heart of the matter in a direct and heartbreaking way, doesn't it?

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

This scene spoke to me on so many levels. It was the most honest reflection of what it's like to have straight friends that you try to protect from certain aspects of the gay experience because they're so critically important in your life. It's devastating and real-I can't believe how good Haigh's first two films (and Looking) have been.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I met Tom Cullen last year, with his girlfriend Tatiana Maslany, and they were both very charming and funny. We had a bit of a laugh.

June 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

Your write-up has put the significance of this scene into wonderful words.

June 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Oh lord, this film. Beyond any film I've ever seen, it speaks to me on a level that no other really has. I cry at least three times each time I watch it and I'm dying to see 45 years :(

June 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMorganisaqt

I'm tearing up just reading those words. it's a film I adore, but am always (slightly) hesitant to recommend it to others. it feels so true to me, that I almost think it's a confessional to admit that to others, that it might say too much about me

June 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIanO

What I like about Andrew Haigh's work is that he doesn't leave much room for his actors to ham it up. Weekend and 45 years are movies I can watch time and again without getting jaded.

June 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJans

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