Weekend is the only Criterion Collection Blu-Ray I own.
The film starts innocently enough.
Russell doesn’t want to be at this party. He may have at first but his tolerance has run dry.
He makes up an excuse. His friend probably sees right through it. But he understands.
He heads to the bar. He meets a boy.
It’s a familiar story, but it has an important twist.
I stare at the screen, alone in my bed, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
How is this story, what seems to be this simple gay romance, going to be ruined for me?
How is this brief glimpse of happiness going to be shattered?
Patricia Highsmith, author of The Price of Salt, said she received dozens of fan letters from lesbians praising her work, her decision to let Carol and Therese live.“Yours is the first book like this with a happy ending!” one such letter said. “We don’t all commit suicide and lots of us are doing fine.”
‘Fine’ could easily describe Russell’s life. He has his friends. He has a nice apartment. He has a slow job as a lifeguard at an indoor pool. He doesn’t seem to have any real complaints. At least none that he would express.
Glen is not ‘fine’. He doesn’t want to be just ‘fine.’ He wants to be an artist. He wants to be gay. He wants the world to notice.
Glen pushes a tape recorder in Russell’s face. He wants an account of their evening. Russell doesn’t know how to react. So he laughs. Glen persists.
Glen wants honesty, but he can’t be honest with himself. Can’t be honest about what he really wants.
That’s what the tape recorder is for. Turning honesty into art.
I consider pausing the film and getting dressed. It’s a Sunday.
I should probably be doing homework.
This counts as work, I decide.
It’s an education.
The sex scenes are unlike any I’ve seen before.
I’m enraptured. I look around, embarrassed, even though my bedroom door is closed.
It feels so intimate. Like I shouldn’t be allowed to see it.
I shouldn’t be allowed to picture myself in the same situation.
Doing these things.
They’re not graphic. It just feels real. And right.
“No one’s gonna come see it because it’s about gay sex.”
Glen lights the joint. He’s discrediting his audio project before it’s even done. He thinks the straights won’t care.
“It’s got nothing to do with their world.”
He’s probably right, I consider. There’s no drama. No death. No real excitement. Just simple, plain, human interaction.
Who would pay to see that?
“We mustn’t upset the straights.”
Russell watches, listening. He’s not sure what to say.
He doesn’t want his sex life to be public. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a sex life.
He can still have a relationship. He wants one with Glen. That much is clear. But is he too shy to breach the subject?
I desperately check my video player. How much time is left? What’s going to happen to them?
“Straight people like us as long as we conform.”
And how am I going to do that? What does that even mean?
Do I have to become a stereotype? Do I have to keep hiding this aspect of myself?
Glen would be disappointed it took me this long to come out at all.
Glen drops a bombshell, though he acts like it’s nothing spectacular. He’s leaving for America the next day. For two years.
Because of course he is. Gay men can’t stay together. They can’t be happy. It isn’t allowed.
But Glen invites Russell to his farewell party.
Their weekend isn’t over yet.
Glen doesn’t like goodbyes.
The Price of Salt recently became a movie.
Though the film was critically acclaimed, director Todd Haynes failed to be nominated for Best Director. Nor was it nominated for Best Picture.
Rooney Mara, who played Therese, had only this to say: “If the gun in the film had gone off, we would have been nominated for Best Picture, maybe.”
That’s the worst part.
Even when queer media makes itself depressing, full of anguish, it will still be ignored.
What’s the point of this suffering if no one’s watching?
There’s a version of Weekend where we find out Glen is sick. Glen is dying.
There’s a version where Russell gets hit by a car.
There’s a version of Weekend where Glen’s ex John is abusive, and will stop at nothing to make his life a living hell. There’s a version where the ex succeeds.
There’s a version where Russell has a girlfriend, or a wife. There’s a version where this innocent weekend is a moral failing of unbelievable proportions.
But those versions aren’t real. They’re not what we get.
The version that exists dares to reject tradition. It dares be optimistic.
These men are not doomed for being themselves.
They’re not doomed for finding each other.
Glen is still leaving. One weekend could never change a person completely. He says he doesn’t want a boyfriend. That he can’t have one.
Russell still wants to try. So he goes to the train station. Glen knew he would follow. He’s a romantic.
“They’ll either clap or throw us under a train,” Glen remarks.
This isn’t a grand gesture. It’s small. It’s just between them.
Russell doesn’t even get to give a speech. Glen cries.
Glen has to go. But he leaves Russell with the tape recorder.
Of course he does.
I weep to nobody.
I close my laptop. Take a moment to breathe. It’s time to start the day.
We can be happy. We don’t have to settle for ‘fine.’