“The Weekend feels quietly radical with its rendering of Black characters in roles we normally see reserved for the white upper middle class.”
Title: The Weekend (2018)
Director: Stella Meghie 👩🏾🇨🇦
Writer: Stella Meghie 👩🏾🇨🇦
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Currently rounding the film festival circuit is Stella Meghie’s The Weekend, where audiences bear witness to a modern day social experiment. What do you get when two exes with sizzling chemistry stay at a remote bed and breakfast for the weekend? But the new girlfriend tags along, and a strapping hot stranger—freshly single—appears in the mix?
For starters, YES, it's all as awkward as it sounds. But it’s hard to look away from the proverbial car crash, given how fascinating it is to see how everyone interacts. Their motivations are all over the map; Zadie, played by SNL alum Sasheer Zamata, wouldn’t mind rekindling something with her ex-boyfriend Bradford (Tone Bell). But Bradford’s busy trying to settle into an aspirational life with the ultra-polished Margo (DeWanda Wise). Meanwhile, the mysterious guest Aubrey (Y’lan Noel) throws a wrench into everyone’s affairs by simply showing up and soliciting Zadie’s attentions.
Meghie knowingly crafts each situation, planting plot points like they’re tulips in a garden. For some, this visible outlining may feel amateurish. But if you embrace the dialogue-driven interactions, the neat archetypes, and the studied blocking as characters move around each other in a preordained dance, then you’ll enjoy The Weekend for what it is: a blooming study in broken relationships, and a hopeful look at how we move on from past heartaches.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
We meet Zadie right from the film’s opening shot. She’s onstage, performing sarcastic stand-up to a roomful of tittering guests. Her jokes waver between self-deprecation or arrogance, never settling on one type of humor long enough to be predictable. What remains constant, however, is her demeanor and tone, the equivalent of a sullen eye-roll.
Right away, she feels like an uncommon anti-hero. To clarify, it’s uncommon to find women who are allowed to be objectively unlikable without getting narratively punished for it. Zadie is selfish; she doesn’t take care of herself, exhibiting the hygiene levels of a depressed freshman in college; and she never appears to give a single fuck, flying or not. But even as audiences might find her frustratingly self-absorbed and rude to people like her own mother or with strangers she’s only just met, it’s empowering as hell to realize that Meghie doesn’t really care if you like Zadie or not. Zadie is the protagonist, and viewers can get over it or get out.
That same lack of sentimentality applies to Zadie’s relationships with other women. Her mother Karen (Kym Whitley) owns the bed and breakfast, but she’s the opposite of touchy-feely. She can be hard on Zadie, but as mentioned, Zadie kind of deserves it as we see her swipe her mom’s clothes without asking permission, or ignoring the events going on in her mother’s own life until things like her father’s absence are staring her in the face.
Meanwhile, Zadie’s relationship with Margo, the competish, is even more brutally honest. It can even be hard to watch how meanly Zadie treats Margo, but the new girlfriend hardly takes it sitting down. They snipe at each other, somehow managing to avoid stereotypes all the while. It helps that Meghie infuses Margo with personality, likes and dislikes, and neuroses. By making her human, Margo’s beef with Zadie feels simply feels founded on universal truths. No one actually likes the new paramours of exes they haven’t gotten over yet, after all. But rather than painting the women as two cats yowling over Bradford, their relationship stands on its own two antagonistic feet.
I realize that this sounds like The Weekend shows women in a horrible light, but Meghie pulls it all together and somehow never makes Zadie out to be the bad guy. Even as she’s being a horrible person, she’s well-rounded enough for viewers to glimpse the major insecurities that underpin her self-defense mechanisms. It might not excuse Zadie’s actions, but it does make them understandable.
If you stop and think about it, movies that feature vacationers veer vehemently white—to the point where even taking a Black man out of the city and into the woods for a remote getaway, as we see with Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out (2017), feels more appropriate a setting for horror than gentle character exploration.
By that fact alone, The Weekend feels quietly radical with its rendering of Black characters in roles we normally see reserved for the white upper middle class. Karen is a Black woman entrepreneur, owning an idyllic bed and breakfast surrounded by nature. Zadie, in true millennial fashion, favors pursuit of her creative dreams over being pragmatic, even when it means accepting financial support from her parents with an air of entitlement. Bradford and Margo appear to be well-off and Margo feels especially bougie with her silk blouses; her kitten heels; and her love of Paris. Meanwhile, Aubrey showcases the other side of the income spectrum, seemingly more middle class as he carries his life’s belonging in the back of a small, beat-up sedan.
The understated diversity within Black characters, told through varying economic strata and wide-ranging personalities, feels deeply original to watch. In addition, small touches like a welcome lack of colorism elevates The Weekend that much more. Aubrey and Bradford are presented as equally attractive men despite their starkly different complexions. Zadie’s beautiful, classy, and rich nemesis Margo has darker skin than her—a power move by Meghie that refutes the colorist casting practices that Margo’s actor, DeWanda Wise, has called out in the past.
In short, Meghie creates Black characters without a whiff of stereotype, all without ever erasing their identities or making them “colorblind”. They simply feel like their authentic selves.
Mediaversity Grade: A- 4.67/5
In order to enjoy The Weekend, you’ll have to embrace its theatrical quality. The plot moves forward solely through dialogue and switched-up dynamics, as characters develop through a natural progression of getting to know each other rather than relying on some meteoric event.
If you’re game for this kind of examination, then The Weekend feels original, unexpected, and entertaining. Zadie might be one of the more frustrating leads you’ll watch in awhile, but you might be surprised with how much you still want her to wind up with the man of her dreams.
You can catch The Weekend next at Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, May 3rd. But after that, I’m crossing my fingers this critically acclaimed movie finds distribution. It certainly deserves it.