Eye For Film >> Movies >> Nights And Weekends (2008) Film Review
Nights And Weekends
Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths
Joe Swanberg has followed up his critically praised Hannah Takes The Stairs with one of the most affecting indie films I've seen for a long time. Nights And Weekends is his third successful collaboration with his artistic partner Greta Gerwig, who previously played the eponymous Hannah. The result is another bare-to-the-bones film that is effortlessly involving, utterly human and touchingly familiar.
Here Gerwig plays Mattie and Swanberg plays James, a twenty-something couple in love. Except she lives in New York and he lives in Chicago, so theirs is a long distance relationship stitched together by visits, with all the heartache and tensions that brings. In the first half of the film we see them together in one city or the other, sharing everything from their lusty clinches, to their late night chats, tearful farewells and simmering arguments. The second half takes place a year later when they have sadly split up, but finds James visiting New York for business and offering them a half-chance to see where their feelings might now lie.
Swanberg ensures that throughout his film we only spend time with Mattie and James when they're in each other’s cities, so creating for us an intimacy with them that is never broken. The hand-held digital camera work, natural lighting and unaffected sound design only help to enhance this closeness as we share in the selected minutiae of their lives.
Gerwig and Swanberg improvise their performances throughout and the source materials for their characters are their own lives and the feisty, symbiotically creative relationship that they share. They boldly explored this into a fictional romantic relationship, gathering weeks of footage that Swanberg has edited into an absorbing, recognisable and affectionate portrait of Mattie and Joe. This hinges on their delivering performances in such a basic and naturalistic manner that they are almost always credible and engaging. Nothing much really happens and Swanberg is more reticent than Gerwig and, once or twice, Gerwig skims close to being just too plain cute for the set up to handle. Ultimately, though, they create believable, familiar scenes and dialogue that are for the most part delightfully simple, unaffected and captivating.
The relationship is a fabrication yet from the tears, to the sex to the speechless pauses in their tetchy arguments, it feels like there’s a frankness and honesty at work, both for them and the audience. Their relationship presents a meditation on how we can love and need someone and articulate that in so many ways, not all successful. It also expresses how we can feel and remember past relationships, a fear of how over time all the passion and feeling can be reduced to a few descriptive words, and why we can desire to go back to past loves, unsure if we ever really can.
This also invests the film with an everyday romance far more sapid than a whole library of Bridget Jones' diaries; this film really touches you, in a way that isn't anywhere near as mawkish as that may sound. This is not a feel-good film, but you feel better for having seen it. Made with an improvised nod to Cassavetes for just $15,000, with more cast members than crew, Nights And Weekends is essential indie cinema that reaches communicates beyond the mumblecore tags that it attracts. It deserves to be seen by as many people as possible to remind everyone what a filmmaker can do, and what a film can be.Reviewed on: 27 Oct 2008