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  Weekend Just Good Friends
Year: 2011
Director: Andrew Haigh
Stars: Tom Cullen, Chris New, Jonathan Race, Laura Freeman, Loreto Murray, Jonathan Wright, Sarah Churm, Vauxhaul Jermaine Liburd, Joe Doherty, Kieran Hardcastle
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Russell (Tom Cullen) works as a lifeguard at his local swimming pool in Nottingham, and has friends he sees regularly, but whether he acknowledges it or not is simply drifting through life with only a vague sense of direction. This weekend he heads over to the home of best friend Jamie (Jonathan Race), just to hang out and chat, but he's not in the mood for talking and tends to watch, reserved, as the other friends amuse themselves playing computer games and drinking. Eventually, he makes his excuses and leaves, saying he has to work tomorrow, which is true, but maybe what he needs tonight is meaningless sex...

Not to be confused with the Jean-Luc Godard French New Wave classic of the sixties, this Weekend couldn't have been more different, as it was a romantic drama centering around what should have been a one night stand, but develops into something more. When Russell takes home Glen (Chris New), who he meets in the bar he arrives at shortly after leaving Jamie's, it's meant to be casual sex, something to lose himself in, and Glen feels the same way but what do you know? Thanks to the magic of the movies there's a connection there, and they both get quite keen to see one another again, even as they resist the idea that they could be falling in love, Glen in particular.

Glen is a budding Peter Tatchell type, politicising gay sex and using it as a reaction against being bombarded, or so he feels, by imagery of straight couples everywhere he looks, wishing to redress that balance. Russell, on the other hand, is a quieter sort who doesn't want to force anything down anyone's throat (so to speak), and is rather shyer about such things as kissing other men in public, which his new in-your-face friend is very keen about. Therefore they really shouldn't be so compatible, being very different kinds of homosexual gentlemen, yet their common ground of sexuality is something to build upon, and before they know it they're edging delicately towards emotional intimacy.

Writer and director (and editor) Andrew Haigh does get a little didactic in his dialogue at times, as if he was seizing an opportunity to speak his mind through his characters and wanted to get as many of his points across as he possibly could, so Glen especially comes across like a mouthpiece more than an actual personality, but in the main he managed to create a believable pair. Helping were sensitive performances, Cullen convincingly cowed by life and New equally angered by it, but Haigh introduced an element to their relationship which made it al the more vital they should sort out where they stood with one another: a deadline. Half an hour into the story, Glen drops a bombshell which will have repercussions and may split them up for good.

Just as they were making progress, too, quite poignant in its way: the fact remains at the end of the weekend of the title Glen has to go away and leave Britain behind, for two years he says, but they both know it will be permanent in the long run. He has an art college course booked in the United States, and he can't back out now, no matter that he might have found the love of his life, but with so much at stake they have to make the best of what they have over these two days, well aware that this affair will have to be over in such a short time making it all the more precious, and offers us more to invest in as an audience. Glen denies he wants a boyfriend, but touchingly allows his defences down occasionally so we can see that may not be entirely true, and Russell proves a good reason to reconsider. One aspect which may be offputting is not so much the gay sex, there's not that much of it anyway, but the industrial amounts of drugs everyone puts away; if you can get over that, you had a sweet, likeable, thoughtful romance no matter your persuasion.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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