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Originally published Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 3:02 PM

Movie review

'Weekend': a well-acted, intimate gay romance

A movie review of "Weekend," writer-director Andrew Haigh's refreshingly intimate tale of a shy lifeguard (Tom Cullen) and an aggressive artist (Chris New) who meet at a Nottingham gay bar and find themselves wanting more than a one-night stand.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3.5 stars

'Weekend,' with Tom Cullen, Chris New. Written and directed by Andrew Haigh. 86 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains profanity, nudity, drug use). Egyptian. (For an interview with Haigh, go to www.seattletimes.com/movies.)

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"I'm fine," says Russell (Tom Cullen), a gay lifeguard who has settled into a no-frills life on the 14th floor of a Nottingham high-rise.

He says it enough times to make you wonder if he could mean it. He's almost defensive about the value of his life/occupation when he meets Glen (Chris New), an aggressive artist who savors their opposites- attract relationship as long as it doesn't get too serious.

Shortly after they meet at a bar and spend the night together, Glen says he doesn't want and can't have a boyfriend. After their first and possibly only weekend together, Glen is leaving town to study contemporary art in Oregon.

"I don't do goodbyes," he almost threatens Russell. But in the end, who's the real romantic? It's a point that can be debated at length in writer-director Andrew Haigh's beautifully acted, refreshingly intimate "Weekend."

The characters are just that complex. When Russell's heterosexual friend, Jamie (Jonathan Race), asks to have a bigger role in Russell's life, the movie briefly takes up his cause and presents the story from his point of view.

For a few minutes, Jamie almost comes across as the most three- dimensional character — so shut out of certain aspects of Russell's life that he leaps at the opportunity to behave heroically. Then he drops out of the picture and the focus returns to Glen and Russell.

In the most moving scene, they talk about what a life together might be like. The sentiment is awfully close to a Rodgers and Hammerstein song (especially "If I Loved You"), but it never seems forced or corny, thanks to brilliant work from Cullen and New — and from Haigh, whose superb editing quickly establishes a precise style.

Cullen and New are British stage actors with little background in film. Haigh's only previous film was a documentary. Perhaps because they don't feel bound by a set of rules, they've created one of the year's most enjoyable surprises.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com

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