In Andrew Haigh's first full-length film, Tom Cullen navigates an ill-timed romance that wasn't meant to be.
"They're too busy on Grindr showing off their arses," quips a character in Andrew Haigh's strikingly accomplished debut feature, Weekend. But Haigh doesn't dwell on the symptoms of the modern gay condition. He makes something altogether more universal and interesting: a story that isn't so much about being gay as it is about love.
"Gay-themed films have never talked about how I see being gay," says the writer-director. "That was the fundamental thing to start with. I was trying to say something honest about relationships."
Haigh's vision immediately resonated with one of the film's stars. "It's not about sexuality," Tom Cullen says of first reading the script. "It's a story about two people who fall in love, who connect. Haven't you fallen in love at first sight?"
There are equal moments of passion, pain, and high comedy in Weekend, all played out against a dreary backdrop of the English Midlands. "Nottingham is a nowhere town," Haigh says. "So many films are about hipsters in cool parts of town. A lot of people don't exist in those worlds. They might live in ugly tower blocks but find beauty in what they do." Haigh discovers the splendor as well - bis camera lovingly frames smoke delicately wafting from a council tower's chimney and the contrast of illuminated high-rises against a polluted sky.
In Weekend, Russell and Glen meet for what they think is a one-night stand, only to stumble into something much more profound. The languid, yet emotionally powerful film traces a relationship that was bound to fail: Glen is leaving for art school in America in two days.
"Both characters change each other's lives," says Cullen. "If it wasn't just for the weekend, it wouldn't work. When you hear that clock ticking, you're able to let your baggage go and give yourself to somebody knowing that you will never see them again."
Cullen, 25, is sipping a vodka tonic in the bar area of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Weekend is screening as part of BAMcinemaFest. He is equally handsome in person as onscreen and looks dapper in a houndstooth blazer over a T-shirt and vest. His eyes are dark, liquid-brown, and framed by strong brows. Cullen was raised in a small farm town in Wales by "hippy" parents (from whom he apparently received his extreme earnestness and open-mindedness).
The actor delivers a standout performance as Russell, a smoldering lifeguard whose childhood was spent in foster care. Glen (played by Chris New) is an aspiring artist damaged from a previous romance. Glen and Russell drink, have sex, and talk. …