In Weekend, Tom Cullen and Chris New both give superb performances as a couple of blokes who get together for a weekend in Nottingham, unexpectedly deriving more from the encounter than either had expected. Cullen's character, a gentle lifeguard, is most people's way into the film - he's more obviously the introvert; he's more awkward, perhaps seemingly more soulful - and cinema loves such characters; we want to see them break out of their shell and overcome whatever is holding them back.
But, whether in comedy, romance or even thrillers, to do this they require a catalyst, a do-er, a cajoler, an agitator. This is where New's livewire artist comes in. I first saw New perform onstage in an RSC production of Twelfth Night which wittily cross-cast the already cross-dressing role of Viola, a girl who spends most of the play acting as pageboy "Cesario". He was a boy playing a girl playing a boy.
New was fantastic in the role and I've never forgotten it. In Weekend he essays another role in which he gets to play with what society may expect from his gender and orientation, in this case making a very forthright case for the bragging rights of the gay man - crucially, the possibility of exercising those rights outside ghettoised 'safe' zones.
Here, New plays a man who feels he is invited by society to play the eunuch, the "acceptable" gay man, when actually, he feels the same impulse as many straight men to talk openly about sex, and with as little reticence. If straight men are allowed to parade their sexuality, rubbing it in people's faces through braggadocio and (putting it more kindly) simple openness, then, this character's argument runs, why not gay men too? Why is the faux-tolerant attitude "they can do what they like so long as I don’t have to hear about it" more acceptable as regards same-sex relationships than relationships with somebody of the opposite sex? It's an argument that may also strike a chord with women, since the expression of female sexuality is still subject to different expectations in so many cultural spaces - witness the reception of bawdy comedy Bridesmaids, which was no cruder a film than many that had gone before it, but had a mainly female cast.
And yet, this is not an "issues" movie. It's a delicate and frequently amusing portrait of two people finding and possibly losing each other. It's as realistically romantic as they come, and ultimately deserves all the praise coming its way, regardless of what that praise may, ironically enough, say about the truth of some of the film's arguments.
In a nutshell: A great date movie for those of an independent persuasion, Weekend has romance to spare, but also takes a look at the cogs turning under the surface of any thoughtful encounter, however brief.