British Writer-director Andrew Haigh has made four feature films — Greek Pete, Weekend, 45 Years, and Lean on Pete — and the superlative HBO series Looking (Seventh Row contributor Brandon Nowalk’s recaps at the AV Club are essential reading).
Here you’ll find an index of all of our articles and podcasts about the films of Andrew Haigh.
The North Water – coming to the BBC in 2021
We’re excitedly anticipating the release of Andrew Haigh’s latest work, a miniseries based on the novel The North Water, which has been made for the BBC. Filming is complete, and it was edited last year. No release date has been announced yet aside from that it will be out this year.
Starring Colin Farrell and Jack O’Connell, and featuring Tom Courtenay (!), the show is set in the late 1850s in the Arctic.
About Andrew Haigh’s films
Andrew Haigh’s films are all single-protagonist stories, told from the lead character’s subjective perspective. His films tend to explore intimacy and identity, romantic relationships and home. “If you’re just watching a frame with two people,” Haigh told Seventh Row Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, “it allows you to see someone talking and seeing the effect that’s having on the other person — seeing the emotional changes in front of your eyes, rather than seeing it within an edit, like forcing that emotional change.”
He has a knack for directing precisely blocked scenes — “blocking is everything” — in long takes, preferring to cut as little as possible, which results in an extremely arduous but rewarding editing process. “I think my blocking is probably the most specific thing I do, Haigh told us. “Because I’m not cutting, the blocking becomes so important. If you don’t block it right, you’re going to miss someone or not see someone.” Because Haigh has penned all of his films, developing the blocking starts as early as the script stage. “My scripts are quite detailed in the action of things. Whether someone is looking in the mirror, or doing something with their hands, I put them into my scripts.”
Andrew Haigh is particularly gifted at getting great performances out of his actors, who tend to win awards for their work with him, while cementing their place among the best performances not just of the year, but of the decade. Tom Cullen, the star of Weekend, should have been nominated for every Best Actor Award; the co-leads of 45 Years, Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling, both won the Berlin Film Festival Best Actor and Best Actress awards, and Rampling went on to earn an Oscar nomination; the star of Lean on Pete, Charlie Plummer, picked up the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival where the film premiered.
45 Years (2015)
Over the course of ninety minutes, Haigh excavates 45 years of a marriage, evoking years of history, buried resentments, and power imbalances — all from Kate’s (Charlotte Rampling) perspective. Each scene, image, and sound is carefully placed and designed to tell you something about the couple. As soon as you think you’ve got the pair pegged, Haigh teases out some detail that makes you question your understanding of their problems and their marriage all over again.
Shooting largely in long, uncut takes of two shots or wide shots, Haigh asks us to live with Kate and her husband, Geoff (Tom Courtenay), and the space between them. Because we can almost always see both of them, as in theatre, Haigh forces us to make a choice about who we pay attention to in any given moment. It’s a dynamic viewing experience, but unlike in theatre where actors must play to the balcony, subtle facial expressions and gestures do so much of the talking. It means you see different things with each re-watch. Every interaction morphs and changes slightly as your focus changes. Though 45 Years deals in intense, moving emotions, it’s never oppressive for us to watch, because Haigh always gives us space to breathe: a quiet scene follows great dramatic tension.
45 Years was made in between the first and second season of HBO’s Looking. It had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, where Rampling and Courtenay both won awards for acting. Rampling was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for the film.
Read our coverage of 45 Years (2015)
Lean on Pete (2017)
Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete is one of the most spellbinding and gut-wrenching films of 2018. If, like us, you walked out of the film wanting to know how it came into being; how it fits into Haigh’s larger oeuvre; and how it engages the tropes of western films, this compilation, now available as an ebook, is for you.
Loved Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete?
Take home our ebook on the film, the first book dedicated to Andrew Haigh’s work
Enrich your viewing experience with our definitive behind-the-scenes guide to the film.
Read excerpts from the book Lean on Pete: A Special Issue
Listen to the podcast on Lean on Pete
FAQ about Andrew Haigh
Andrew Haigh has written a four-part miniseries for BBC2, The North Water, based on Ian McGuire’s novel. The series has been completed, but there has yet to be a release date announced. The series features Colin Farrell, Jack O’Connell, Tom Courtenay, Stephen Graham, and Peter Mullan.
From the BBC press release: “The North Water tells the story of Patrick Sumner (O’Connell), a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition to the Arctic. On board he meets the harpooner Henry Drax (Farrell), a brutish killer whose amorality has been shaped to fit the harshness of his world. Hoping to escape the horrors of his past, Sumner finds himself in a male-dominated world, on an ill-fated journey with a murderous psychopath. In search of redemption, his story becomes a harsh struggle for survival in the Arctic wasteland.
The North Water is set in Hull and the ice floes of the Arctic in the late 1850s.”
Haigh has directed four features: Greek Pete (2009), Weekend (2011), 45 Years (2015), and Lean on Pete (2017). He has also directed many episodes of HBO’s Looking, which he also wrote for and produced, and two episodes of the second season of The OA.
Contrary to popular belief, Weekend (2011) was not actually Haigh’s first feature though it was his first major critical success. In 2009, he directed Greek Pete, a work of docu-fiction film about a gay male sex worker living in London.
Haigh hails from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England.
The endings of Haigh’s films — and his TV series Looking — are always extremely memorable. He’s spoken of building a script backwards, starting from the ending, as a way to ensure the film would end on a moment of high tension — whether it’s with a cut to black just before an anticipated kiss in Looking, or the moment where the couple’s relationship seems about to break at the end of 45 Years.
Haigh’s trademark is his exquisite blocking. When we spoke to him about Lean on Pete, he told us, “Blocking is everything.”
Haigh told us that he starts thinking about blocking as early as the script stage: “ I draw a little diagram, sometimes, to try and work out how someone might be doing something. It’s almost how my brain works. I’m not very technical. In a big, complicated scene, if I was going to cover it from a bunch of different angles, it would probably be a disaster. Even though I’ve edited in the past, I’d be like, “I don’t know!”
For Haigh, the goal of blocking “at every point, is to reveal something that feels truthful about the character. The way the character moves around someone else, turns their back on someone else, or does something else in order to stop thinking about what they should be thinking about, or whatever it is, is so important.”