The Aesthetics of Longing: Weekend

Where the horizon lies 
And the land sinks into mellow blueness 
Oh please, take me with you 
Let me skip the road with you 
I can dare myself

By My Side, Godspell

There is a deep longing in all of humanity. A deep ache for what one thinks is unattainable. Many yearn for peace. Peace around them and peace within them. Others long for the innocence of childhood in the wake of how complicated the world has become. Genesis reads “man was not meant to be alone” and this is painfully true for those who long for some sort of human connection. Then there are those, whose desire is to keep these aches, yearnings, and longings suppressed; to deal with these deep-rooted emotions is to confront sadness. They decide it is easier to just pretend as if the emotions didn’t exist.

Andrew Haigh’s masterful film Weekend takes place, as the title suggests, in one weekend. It is in the vein of Richard Linklater’s romantic and urgent films Before Sunset and Before Sunrise. On a Friday night Russell has a one-night stand with Glenn. In the morning it becomes obvious to the viewer that the two men’s personalities are almost polar opposites. Russell is a quiet introverted man while Glenn is very extroverted and opinionated. Yet despite their differences the two click. In just one morning and afternoon the two forge a relationship that is real and authentic. Unfortunately Glenn is leaving for art school in America for two years the very next day. In just a short fragment of time writer/director/editor Andrew Haigh gives one two fully developed characters that the audience cares about and shows the start of a relationship that could potentially work.

What stays with one after the credits role is the senses of longing these two men have. The entire film is about the sensation of deep yearning. Yet it is never mentioned or discussed by Russell and Glen nor any of their friends. The sense of longing is artfully articulated in the films visual aesthetic.

For example Russell longs for two things: a childhood he never had and authentic human connection. The former is articulated through very specific imagery: he takes baths (very childlike), all of his silverware and kitchen utensils are very small grandmother-esque antiques, and he has the thick alphabet magnets on his fridge. One learns he was a foster child moving from home to home without any real mother or father. He is man who yearns for a childhood he never had.

When he is with his friends or co-workers he is often in focus while the others are out of focus or vice versa. He often wears grey or white clothing while surrounded by bright colors symbolizing his inability to connect with the world.

Russell also constantly looks out his apartment window at the life below. The view out the window (depending on whether it’s the living room or bedroom) is either the pale isolated city or the warm colors of a suburban neighborhood: Russell’s conflicting desires and feelings. Then when Glenn appears in his life Russell always finds himself looking out the window whenever Glenn leaves his apartment, yearning for connection.

Glenn is on the opposite end. He is often wearing red or yellow colors and in crowds everything and everyone is in focus. Glenn desires to suppress both his longing for connection and his pain. He doesn’t want to fall in love with Russell; he doesn’t want a relationship because a past one has hurt him. He doesn’t want to talk about the past for that would entail fully recognizing how painful it was.

They both have walls, yet the subtle beauty of the film is found in watching those walls finally come crumbling down during the final day they spend together. The only time Glenn ever goes near the window is once he has opened up to Russell. It raises fundamental questions regarding attraction, love, and self-identity. How much can a person change another person? Andrew Haigh affirms that with honesty comes personal reformation. Yet Weekend remains bittersweet till the end. It is not some uplifting hollywoodized romantic comedy; rather it is a realistic portrayal of the chaotic nature of modern love (for both straights and gays).

The yearning, longing, and aches felt in life never completely go away. Life itself is an untidy combination of beauty and brokenness. However there are ways to mend the pain. At the end of Weekend Russell has tasted the freedom that human connection brings and longs for it even more as he stands at his window once again.

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