Of the five nominees for the 2019 Academy Awards animated short films category, I found Weekends to be the most obscure. On the other hand, it’s still nowhere near as obscure as some animated shorts I’ve seen, like Tyger or Vive la rose.
Certainly the bare outline of it is not hard to follow, even though the film lacks dialogue and has occasional surreal elements. It’s about a little boy whose parents are divorced. He is with his mother most of the time, but with his father on some weekends and holidays. When he’s with his mother, it’s more like his regular life. She’s loving, but she’s also distracted by having to work, take care of the house, and pursue further schooling. When he’s with his father, who seems to be better off financially, it’s mostly play time as they watch TV, eat takeout, play video games, etc.
In time both his mother and his father find someone to date, though his mother’s boyfriend apparently turns out to be abusive.
The boy mostly floats along passively through all this. No doubt it’s affecting him, and he is experiencing various emotions regarding it, but it’s not like we see him in angry confrontations with either of his parents, crying, running away, etc.
For me, the film triggered various thoughts about being a child of divorce, splitting your life between two parents, etc. Like, do you really want your parents to find someone else to be happy with, or would you root against that because it makes you less the center of their world? Are you naturally more drawn to your “fun” parent? Are you forever comparing your life to what it would be if your parents had never split up?
But these are more generic things that watching any film about divorce might have brought to mind for me. I feel like there are a lot of things specific to Weekends that I didn’t pick up on. There’s plenty in the film that I’m sure has symbolic meaning, but my ability to decipher symbolism is quite poor.
For instance, the mother’s new boyfriend is sometimes depicted as having a flat head with a candle sticking out of it. A friend of mine suggested that maybe this is supposed to make us think of candles like on a birthday cake and their association with wishes, so it means the boy is wishing for his mother to connect with a good man (though in fact he turns out not to be so great). Maybe, but I’m sure there are other interpretations at least as plausible as that.
Or does it matter that the boy’s favorite toy at his father’s house seems to be a big toy horse he can sit atop? Does it mean something that it’s a horse rather than something else?
Why is the mother always wearing a neck brace (or some article of clothing around her neck, or whatever that is)?
Why do the father and son seem to share interest in so many Asian things, like Chinese takeout and Samurai swords? (Are these characters in fact Asian? They don’t particularly look it to me, but it’s not hyper-realistic animation, so I guess they could be.)
A lot of the details like that I assume aren’t random, but what we’re supposed to infer from them I honestly don’t know.
But like I say, what I did understand from Weekends did kind of pull me into the world of a child dealing with divorce and gave me some things to think about, and while some elements of the film were obscure to me, this film was nowhere near as hard to follow as plenty of other animated films I’ve seen.