We are celebrating 10 years of QBMC this
2019 twentybiteen with a throwback to past books, movies, and a couple of exciting socials!
Attendees: Vicky, Ron, Colin, Dave, Rui Jie, Alexius, Raj, Timmy, Jay, Abigail
To commemorate a very British film, this month’s spread were three kinds of sandwiches – British cheddar with cucumber; Turkey pastrami, cucumber, and English mustard; and chicken mayo – alongside sausages, the usual alcohols, crisps, and shortbread.
The discussion commenced with Asy bringing up the HBO series and movie ‘Looking’, which also involved Andrew Haigh, citing similarities between that and ‘Weekend’.
Russell and Glen first met at a club before having a “one weekend stand”. Are stories like theirs relatable? Have stories similar to the film taken place in real life? Dave liked the idea of serendipity. Ron appreciated the rawness of the film and found that it has more depth than it lets on. He also brought up the negative notions when talking about one night stands, which he attributed to society’s limited and imposed mentality. Asy found the beginning “interesting” – Russell may have felt alone and lonely during the party, even though he was surrounded by his friends, and thus decided to make a last-minute detour to the club. Colin wondered if Russell being lonesome was self-imposed.
We pondered whether the film would significantly change, should either the characters or the story itself be written differently. Both Dave and Raj agreed that the show would still remain the same; the romanticism will still be there. Asy also posed a question specifically to the ladies in attendance, asking them if they connected with the film despite its themes. For Vicky, even though the (sexual) acts are different, the feelings are still the same. Abigail could imagine a similar thing happening to anyone, while Jay said that the film depicted a “low stakes” story.
Most of the interactions between Russell and Glen took place in the former’s apartment, which Timmy noted as being a safer space where they could be themselves. Raj also highlighted that since they were consuming drugs, doing it in Russell’s apartment made more sense as opposed to doing it in public spaces. Alexius joked that production budgets only allowed them to be filmed in the flat for most of the film. As the topic of drugs was brought up, our discussion shifted towards that. Ron wondered how the two were able to take a lot of drugs and did not die; Asy also pointed out that they were not completely sober throughout the film.
The scene with the homophobic verbal abuse, which Asy classified as a “characterisation scene”, was brought up. Colin wondered aloud how both Russell and Glen were able to hear the shouts, even though the apartment is on the 14th floor. Raj elaborated that the neighbourhood where Russell lives is not as cosmopolitan, thus the bullying. We also talked about the second club (bar?) scene and deduced that it was hardly a homophobic encounter; rather, Glen was just overcompensating by being loud and brash about his sex life.
Our discussion thus segued towards all the sex the film showcased, though we did not talk about it like how Glen talked about his. Unlike our Western counterparts, Asians hardly talk about sex. Abigail suggested that this may stem from our embarrassment about discussing anything that is considered “private”. We also briefly discussed Glen’s art project – would only gay men be the only people to go see his work? Both Raj and Timmy said yes. Vicky viewed Glen’s project as his way of “challenging the boundaries”. Like Glen, Russell also records his sexual encounters albeit only for his personal consumption; essentially, both of them were doing so for bragging rights.
A few other things that were touched on:
- The foster environment that Russell grew up in, which may or may not have caused him to keep to himself, particularly pertaining his sexual orientation.
- Similarities between the film and Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, particularly on the relatability of their stories. We also compared the film to Call Me By Your Name and Carol.
- When it comes to friends, Raj noted that Russell’s friends are close to him though they may not necessarily hang out all the time, whereas in Glen’s case, he may hang out with his friends a lot, but they only know him superficially and may not be as close to him. Raj’s observation can be supplemented with the angry monologue Glen had as the two were heading to the night carnival.
- Glen is the type of person who wants everyone else to listen to him, despite their personal opinions. This is (annoyingly) evident in the conversations he had with Russell.
- The conversation on gay marriages mirrors real-life thoughts on the issue: some view marriage as a straight institution and a politically symbolic union, something that is practical and civil.
- According to Raj, Glen spelling out the word “faggot” with the magnets on Russell’s refrigerator was his way of informing the latter that they will meet for sex again, and also that Glen has gotten comfortable with Russell to the point that he was able to use a (formerly) derogatory term on him.
- There was no clear indication who identifies as top and/or bottom. This was one of the many things the film employed to subvert the stereotypes of gay men.
- Most of us identified with Glen.
- Both males sported beards, which was “very 2011,” according to Dave. Asy claimed that the movie suffered because of this stylistic choice.
In discussing the ending, the question put forth was whether Russell and Glen resume their relationship after the latter’s stint in Portland. We all agreed – “95% chance,” Vicky predicted – that they would not never (ever ever) get back together. Colin saw Glen as someone who came into Russell’s being and changed him, leading Abigail to suggest that Russell may be the one to pine for Glen. Raj bluntly stated that Glen returned Russell his tape recording, presumably as his way of telling the latter that he is (has?) moving on. Timmy noted that by the film’s end, both characters have seemingly adopted each other’s traits and thoughts, to varying degrees.
When the movie was released in 2011, it was met with critical acclaim. Did the film deserve such praise then, and does it still stand today? Ron, Colin, Dave, Rui Jie, and Jay agreed with the reviews, proclaiming that the movie, strongly buoyed by its universal storytelling, has done well in its genre. On the opposite camp were Alexius, Raj, Abigail, and Asy, who found the movie “dull, gloomy, negative, and pretentious” (Alexius), “average with no scenes depicting supportive friends and people of colour” (Raj), and “a very 2011 film that does not deserve its acclaim” (Asy). Vicky opined that had she watched the film in 2011, she would have agreed with the reviews as she found it “avant garde”, but watching it in 2019, she felt the movie and its themes were “overdone”.