The Weekend Away review – Leighton Meester anchors taut but thin Netflix thriller | Thrillers


An American wakes up in a cozy hotel in Croatia, violently hungover and dazed from the night before. The room is strewn with clothes, the counter dotted with empty wine glasses. An unexpected blackout has rendered Beth’s (Leighton Meester) memory of the previous few hours into a few incoherent shards, ones she fears putting together. Relatable content for many women at some point in their lives, and thus a compelling starting point for The Weekend Away, a brisk and absorbing if increasingly thin thriller about a girls’ holiday weekend gone wrong.

The Weekend Away, from Strangerland director Kim Farrant, opens with a woman’s body floating in calm water, so you can assume Beth’s holiday in Croatia with best friend Kate (Christina Wolfe) will end in at least one casualty. The road to that point is initially sleek and promising, with a taut first third that quickly illustrates the women’s strained thirtysomething friendship and sets up a decently plausible mystery. Beth is a new mother barely out from the haze of sleepless nights and post-partum depression. Kate, blonde and beguiling, is a social butterfly reeling from a recent divorce that’s sent her into a black hole of hedonistic narcissism.

After Beth admits over dinner that her marriage to Rob (Luke Norris) has cooled so much that they haven’t had sex in over a year, Kate drags her to a club, ignores her request for water, and finds two men to flirt with. The rest is a blacked-out blur, convincingly relayed in small flashbacks; Beth awakens from her bender to find Kate missing and delays her trip home to London to find her.

The script from British-American writer Sarah Alderson, who also wrote the 2020 novel of the same name, proceeds apace from there with a steady five-minute rhythm of plot twists at first intriguing, then wearying, then either ludicrous or obvious. Beth enlists a friendly cab driver from the night out, Syrian refugee Zain (Ziad Bakri) to help follow leads that the dismissive police – charismatic Pavic (Amar Bukvic) and slightly more sympathetic female partner Kovač (Iva Mihalić) – don’t take seriously. At 90 minutes, The Weekend Away is not much longer than some streaming TV episodes, and accomplishes much more plot in its swift runtime. Beth summarily unravels a host of secrets behind her friendship with Kate, her marriage to Rob, and side characters such as creepy hotelier Sebastian (Adrian Pezdirc), though those secrets aren’t ultimately that surprising.

More interesting is the film’s light jostling with some thornier, deeper topics: the inherent exploitation of tourism (Beth’s initial conversation with Zain, in which she tries to relate by speaking broken Arabic learned from her London job with a refugee organization), local annoyance with tourists’ recklessness, the struggle to keep up friendships as a new mother. But these intriguing moments are subsumed by the film’s relentless driving beat of plot twists, which ultimately demand that Beth distrust everyone, take increasingly desperate measures, and have a scenic chase through picturesque Split’s city center in the tourist uniform of cropped jeans and Keds.

For many millennials, the kind looking to kick back on the couch for a night in without committing to three hours of Dune and keen to relate to the protagonist, the main draw of The Weekend Away will be perennially under-appreciated star Meester, who played beloved mean girl Blair Waldorf on the original Gossip Girl. Dressed understatedly with dry hair in a messy ponytail, Meester convincingly looks the part of a woman who has not taken a night to herself in a long while, and she delivers a solid performance. Her Beth – foggy and confused, learning to trust her own instincts as her assumptions crumble – grounds a thinly-written character who could’ve been merely a plot device in a shallow story. The final twist is fairly obvious from halfway through the movie, but in Meester’s hands it still registers some emotional shock.

That being said, in a time of too many bloated, meandering, dry TV episodes and films, I found The Weekend Away’s brevity and swift clip of twists refreshing. It’s a thriller by name but less edge-of-your-seat than lounging on the couch, absorbing beats of plot like the ocean tide. A little provocation with slight commitment – that’s not a bad night in by any means.

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