Tom Cullen

Tom Cullen and Chris New star in Andrew Haigh's romantic drama "Weekend." (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset” is one of those classic falling-in-love films, an elliptically-paced look at a single night in the lives of two young globetrotters.

With “Weekend,” writer-director Andrew Haigh has produced a very similar film, a gay-themed riff on flash-in-the-pan romance that takes place over a weekend in the life of two British men.

The film’s central duet is made up of Tom Cullen and Chris New. Cullen plays the insecure Russell, who goes cruising at a gay bar one evening and meets Glen (Chris New). After what could be a one-night stand, Russell can’t get his mind off Glen and the two end up spending most of the weekend together in a romantic stupor, high off both a wide variety of drugs and the pure rush of infatuation.

Cullen and New are more or less the only actors in the film, save for a few scenes with a friend of Russell’s that bookend the film. With the entire film resting on their shoulders, both actors prove to be pretty exceptional, selling every bit of their characters’ banter, bickering and discussion of their gay identities.

Thankfully, they’re backed by a strong script from Haigh.

Haigh edited the film as well, bringing his background working on the editing team for films such as “Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down” to a very different genre. Haigh’s script keeps the film moving very quickly, avoiding self-indulgent flab that could rob the proceedings of their emotional heft, and his script is insightful, funny and sweet. The film examines what it means to be gay but in a smart, insightful way that shouldn’t turn off straight viewers — the film is definitely risque but no more so than your average R-rated romantic drama.

“Weekend” is a prime example of a lost romantic interlude in two lives that just happen to bump into each other at the right time. Well-directed and written, and exceptionally acted, the film easily transcends the niche audience it’s aimed at and becomes an intelligent, wistful examination of sex, identity and what it means to be a person — lofty goals that it absolutely deserves to be commended for.

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2o11 as: Film shows whirlwind 'Weekend' romance, intelligently explores homosexual lifestyles