Last night PJ and I went to see Weekend, a new gay independent film about two men, Russell and Glen, who meet on a one-night stand and end up spending a weekend together. Here’s the trailer:

This movie has gotten great reviews, and we assumed we would have to wait until our trip to New York next month to see it, so we were really excited when our local art theater, The Athena, announced that it was showing here. It’s not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it — it’s far and away better than the average gay independent movie!

Tom Cullen plays Russell, a not quite fully out gay man in search of connection after spending the evening drinking and smoking pot with his best straight friends. Chris New plays Glen, an artist who politicizes his gayness by talking loudly about gay S&M while hanging out in straight bars and then arguing with the other patrons about it, for example.

As the two men spend the weekend talking, arguing, fucking, and partying, they begin to open up to one another as they’ve never opened up to anyone before. The most appealing aspect of the film is the emotional honesty that these characters have. You feel like you’re eavesdropping on real conversations. For example, Glen and Russell talk about their coming out stories. Both of their stories feel real and honest. These moments seem incredibly wise and insightful but not out of character — Glen and Russell are never wiser than men like them would be. I tend to like talky pictures; that’s definitely what I like best about Weekend.

I also tend to like a good bit of sex and nudity in my gay films. Weekend has both. I liked the way this aspect of the film was handled — it wasn’t all at once, and it is shot almost documentary style, making it seem real (again). It is sexy and somewhat graphic, but it’s never pornographic.

There’s also a lot of drug use in the film, by both the gay characters and their straight friends. While I could see someone arguing that this makes it seem like gays are all drug users, the fact that the straights do it too shouldn’t be ignored. Besides, it’s a movie, not “real life.”

Cullen is excellent as the desperately searching Russell, but the standout for me was Chris New as Glen. First off, he’s great in this role. His Glen is sexy, irritating, and intriguing, just like a real person might be. I also love New’s resonant voice. And New is out — I increasingly respect and admire actors who come out. I’m tired of the ones who hide for as long as possible supposedly for the sake of their careers. Good actors will find work, gay or straight. To not come out, it seems to me, is more about their own issues and self-loathing. Hopefully, New will be starring in a play the next time we’re in London so that we can see him in person. (There’s a great interview with him in The Advocate.)

Weekend isn’t perfect — the main narrative conflict about Glen leaving England at the end of the weekend is contrived and somewhat silly, and PJ and I both agreed that it didn’t really need it as a narrative catalyst — but it’s a very interesting and entertaining movie nevertheless. I kept expecting it to descend in one of the clichés that often plague gay movies, such as a random gay bashing or the sudden appearance of a drug dealer wanting his money, either of which would lead to one of the main characters’ death. It manages to avoid these clichés, for which I was grateful. Overall, I enjoyed this movie and thought it was well worth seeing — it could easily end up being one of my favorites of the year.