One of the biggest surprises from this year's SXSW Film Festival was audience award winner "Weekend." It's not that the Austin festival wouldn't be expected to embrace a British indie romance, but a British, indie, gay romance with very explicit talk of sexual acts? Well, that might be a surprise audience favorite just about anywhere.
The directorial debut of Andrew Haigh, "Weekend" follows a remarkable three days between Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) after a one night stand after meeting each other at a U.K. club (the city appears to be Manchester). The next morning it's apparent there is the potential for more and the rest of the weekend involves a romantic dance of discovery between the late twentysomethings. Unfortunately, it's all transpiring with a looming deadline on the way. Glen is headed to Portland on Sunday for art school. Will he go? Or, as his friends tell Russell, will he stay because he's chicken or because Russell is a good late excuse?
Granted, the picture's storyline isn't groundbreaking, but the dialogue between the two is haunting realistic and you want these two lonely souls to find a way to work it out pretty early on. The film also shares an intimate and gorgeous cinematic style similar to Drake Doremus' "Like Crazy" or Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" that seems elevate the stakes for both characters. It also doesn't hurt that Cullen and New are fine talents with great chemistry on screen.
"Weekend" was acquired by Sundance Selects which is slowly releasing it across the country beginning with New York tomorrow. To get a taste of "Weekend" check out the exclusive clip embedded in the post above. It is part of Russell and Glen's long Saturday night talking, drinking and, um, few unfortunate shots of cocaine (then one thing that rings false in then film in my opinion) . It's a wonderful reminder of that love almost everyone has had where you can't stop talking to one another trying to find out as much as you can about the other person. It's part of life that anyone can relate to whether gay or straight.
[Warning: The clip contains frank language and drug abuse. It is not appropriate for minors under the age of 18 without the supervision of a parent.]
Quality and genre transcending gay cinema has made something of a comeback this year with "Pariah," "Weekend" and, to a lesser extent, "Beginners." This pundit hopes it's the sign of a new trend.
"Weekend" debuts in New York on Friday and is a must-see for any serious moviegoer - gay or not. To find out when it's arriving in your neck of the woods, click here.
For year round entertainment commentary follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.