In a Q & A session after the screening of Joe Swanberg’s latest production with longtime collaborator Greta Gerwig, Swanberg stated that he likes to make films that fill the voids left by others; he had not seen a film that dealt with the reality of long distance relationships in any authentic way and hence Nights And Weekends was born. Chronicling the relationship between Swanberg’s James and Gerwig’s Mattie through three episodes, Nights and Weekends does for romance what The Blair Witch Project did for horror — made it relevant, real, and relatable.
Opening with a weekend visit from Mattie in Chicago, episode one illustrates the truths of months of a relationship compacted into one weekend. The frantic love-making, the reiteration of why they love each other, the pressure of ensuring there is affection, fun and significance in everything they do. Episode two sees James visiting Mattie in New York where the strain of their sacrificial relationship starts to show, but affection remains. And then a final third wherein James is again in New York on a business trip, twelve months after their relationship has ended and the anxieties of appropriateness and unfinished feelings comes to the fore.
Above all, the film’s greatest achievement is its perceptive portrayal of how real relationships work. There is no grand speech-making, no preconceived vernacular, no soft focus or swooning backing track; just beautiful moments of alone time, pointless conversations as they lie in awkward positions, fidgeting with each other as they share snippets about themselves, the friendship behind their love and their comfort in each other’s company. There are equally seemingly pointless arguments wherein the true pressures and sadness behind their geographical dilemma come to the fore at unpredictable times, but isn’t that just the way it happens in the real world? Before you know it, a conversation has turned into an argument and you don’t really know why it all started? Without spoon-feeding sentiment, the collection of telling, mostly improvised moments have been edited together to form a picture of the fundamentals of any relationship; compacted into nights and weekends in James and Mattie’s case, eighty minutes for the audience.