Weekend director Andrew Haigh's Top 5 Ticking Clock Romances

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 23 2011 4:27 PM

The Greatest Ticking Clock Romances in Movies

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Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) in Weekend.

Can one chance encounter change your life? What if it only lasts a few days? That’s one of the central questions in Weekend, the new drama opening in New York today and expanding nationwide through October. The critically acclaimed film chronicles a fling between two young men, and their interactions after one reveals he’s bound for distant shores in just a couple days.

Weekend isn’t the only film to set a courtship against a countdown. Lloyd Dobler might never have brought out the boom box if Diane Court wasn’t bound for Britain, and even Cinderella had to get back before midnight. Timed with the arrival of Weekend, we asked the film’s director, Andrew Haigh, to give us his favorite ticking clock romances from the silver screen.


Don McKellar’s
Last Night (1998)

I'm not sure how well known this Canadian film is, but it is certainly one of my favorites. It follows a group of people as they prepare for the end of the world. The movie is told with such a quiet tenderness and humor. It's also completely heartbreaking. In one strand of the story we follow two strangers, played by Don McKellar and Sandra Oh, who despite their best intentions, end up spending their remaining hours together. The moment when they realize that they have fallen for each other, as the world ends around them, makes me cry just thinking about it.

Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004)

You can't make a list such as this without including both Before Sunrise and its sequel Before Sunset, and Weekend couldn't help but be influenced by these films. Two people wander the streets of Vienna and then Paris as the deadline for departure rapidly approaches. What I like about the films is the way these two strangers, while talking about abstract ideas, reveal the truth about who they are as people, and in doing so fall for each other. There are of course many differences between my film and these, not least the fact that mine is set in Nottingham among tower blocks and crappy bars and not in famous romantic European destinations.

Aaron Katz’s Quiet City (2007)

A girl arrives in New York trying to find her friend, and as she tries to track her down she ends up hanging out with a stranger for 24 hours instead. This indie drama is not really a ticking clock romance, but it still exists within a compressed timeframe during which you’re not sure the characters will ever see each other again. I'm a big fan of Aaron Katz and this is my favorite of his films. I caught it in a cinema in London without knowing much about it and was completely taken by it's hazy beauty. It felt like a real relationship developing in front of my eyes, unpretentious, poetic and authentic.

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003)

A non-romantic romance that is just as important as a love affair. It perfectly captures the profound effect that a brief relationship can have on a person. The characters played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, who are each staying separately in a Tokyo hotel, do not undergo a radical change by the end, but clearly something happens, something changes even if it is hard to articulate exactly what. This is precisely what is so good about this film. (That, and it’s pretty funny.)

Michel Gondry’s
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

In all of the above films it is about the new memories that are being created as the time ticks away, memories that you know will linger, turn to regrets perhaps, about missed opportunities. This is a film that is different. It is about a man (played by Jim Carrey) desperately trying to keep the memory of his collapsed relationship alive, keep the memories inside his head, before they are erased forever. It is a strangely touching film and one, like all of the others on this list, that is really about the powerful effect another person can have on us, how it can change us and define us. How it can make us who we are.

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