I like to think that I’m not homophobic, but I realised this week that I don’t think I have ever seen a single film specifically about gay people. I haven’t seen any of the supposed titans of queer cinema like Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia or Top Gun.
The only one that comes to mind is one of my favourite films Withnail & I, which is on the surface about male friendship. However, the film is sufficiently open to interpretation as to the nature of their relationship that you could comfortably make the argument that they are gay or that one has an unrequited love for the other. At the very least it features Richard Griffiths playing Uncle Monty who is probably the best gay character in any film, managing to be simultaneously hilarious, tragic and shit scary.
My concern comes from the fact that I am currently writing a (fairly long) short (romantic comedy/erotic horror) story at the moment (ETA Q2 2012), which features a couple of very prominent gay characters, and is written from the perspective of a female character.
As a result, I am now the self-appointed spokesman for the gay and female experience, despite belonging to neither group; further bolstering my similarity to Lady Gaga…
I was interested in seeing the film to see if my dialogue and depiction of a gay relationship had any degree of consonance with what a gay writer/director had made.
Though I’m not gay, I do feel some degree of empathy with the gay community. I probably have more in common, in terms of interests and worldview with the average gay man than the average straight man (I don’t like football/I love Eurovision etc).
I think I’ve probably been propositioned by more gay men in nightclubs than by women. I reckon I would probably do far better romantically if I was gay, the stumbling block is that men’s bodies are just not interesting to me in any way; we’re an indistinguishable mush of bland looking bastards. So I will continue to fruitlessly venerate women, who are generally put off by how gay I seem (oh the irony).
Anyway, Weekend is one of the better romantic comedies I have seen (though it’s not all that funny). It bears similarities to another quality romance Before Sunset, in that, it is solely about two people getting to know each other and falling in love over a short period of time, with a looming deadline that is imminently about to separate them. The difference being that Weekend is set in indistinct Nottingham, rather than Vienna.
Weekend concerns a bearded, everyman, loner called Russell who goes on his own to a gay bar looking for transient sex. In the morning he wakes up with a (seemingly) self-confident and dominating, aspiring artist called Glen. They end up spending most of the weekend together, even though Glen is planning to move indefinitely to America on the Sunday. Over the course of the following two days they get to know one another and talk about their familial and sexual histories and their ambitions for the future.
One fun thing about the screening I went to was that there was a middle-aged woman who kept interacting with the film for some reason. Responding to random questions asked by characters (example: “Do you fancy meeting up later on?” woman behind me: “Yes, he does”).
The aspect of the film that was most eye-opening for me (and this might come off as naive and ignorant, apologies, baby I was Born This Way) was that though the logistical nature of gay sex is different, the emotional experience is exactly the same. That is not to say that I had previously assumed the experience was lesser, I had just assumed it would be different. What made me enjoy the film is that it is not just a ‘gay’ film aimed at a primarily gay audience, I think most people could empathise.
One of the key strands of the film is the way homosexuality is presented to the world through films and culture, as well as through the actions of homosexuals themselves.
Glen repeatedly raises the point that gays in films and TV shows are usually non-threatening creatures with their edges rounded off for public consumption. Characters that are never given any degree of autonomy or inner lives; they are always sidekicks or comic relief, rarely fleshed out in any meaningful way. As the film goes on Russell becomes increasingly confident and begins to challenge the more militant Glen about his confrontational approach and how his fear of commitment equally plays into the way the public views homosexual relationships.
The film’s depiction of drug use and sex is refreshingly un-self conscious, I like that the characters are able to be relatively hedonistic without some inevitable cosmic punishment being dealt out to them as a result.
It is the ending of the film that pushes Weekend into Tear Blog territory; I will say that I did come quite close to crying (so I’m making progress). As the couple say their goodbyes at the train station and various things that needed to be said are said. The film ends with Russell back in his flat, back to square one, uncertain that the two will ever see each other again. A depressing but entirely realistic conclusion.
Anyway, really enjoyed the film and I hope its honesty and realism penetrates more mainstream romantic comedies (if you’ll hard-on the pun).