Gorgeously photographed and rippling with emotionality, Lonesome is a tragic, poignant portrayal of the queer male experience. Many movies of this ilk seem to wallow in the sorrow and sadness that comes with being an outsider. Lonesome, however, takes a different approach. The sorrow and sadness still exist certainly, but the pain must commingle with the happiness and power of love. This intoxicating creation may not accomplish groundbreaking leaps for mankind; and yet, it has a certain special quality one longs to see from these sorts of films. Nudity that gets practically pornographic at times courtesy of numerous simulated sex scenes that feel very real tinkers with how we view intimacy and voyeurism. Let yourself get swept away in the lush cinematography and raw acting in writer/director Craig Boreham’s Lonesome.
Fleeing from his complicated country living and an oppressive scandal, young cowboy Casey (Josh Lavery) flees to rediscover himself. Casey hitchhikes and fucks his away across the countryside until he finally reaches Sydney; a sort of free spirit, Casey crashes a house party to charge his phone and get a free meal. He finds an app-related hookup that results in a steamy threesome—Tib (Daniel Gabriel), a complicated but confident lad living alone in the city, shares an obvious connection with Casey, evident after Casey wakes up the next morning on his couch. Having just arrived in the city, Casey is majorly in need of work. Tib does odd jobs like move furniture and clean pools, and extends an invite to Casey to make some money.
From early on, the viewer gets an immediate sense of the crushing loneliness and guilt hanging over Casey like a dark cloud. When he dreams, Casey imagines himself stark naked in a lush open field, imagery that continues to recur throughout. He isn’t exactly an open book—Josh Lavery plays the character with a haunting sense of self on a constant need to fill the emptiness inside of him. Initially, Casey is painted as a top, which in the gay world amounts to a form of dominance, but as he opens up more, Casey turns toward submissiveness. He has an unquenched anger inside of him that he cannot quite understand how to channel, and Tib may be the key to unlocking what he has been too afraid to confront. Casey cannot even turn towards his family. A one-sided call to his mother does not allow for the kind of nurturing that Casey needs. In fact, she actually begs him not to come back home, but to “stay safe.”
With nowhere to stay, Tib offers Casey to move in temporarily, and sleep on his couch. Both of them have hidden secrets and trauma from one another, and Tib’s family life seems nearly as complicated. They bond and toast over their “cunt dads,” and stay connected through their insatiable sexual appetites. Of course, like any other romance, there are obstacles that threaten to destroy what is blossoming. Things become ugly and physical as both men turn towards sexual pleasure as coping mechanisms. A shocking high point for me is a rock-bottom scene reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream—the power of this sequence makes the poignant ending all the more satisfying.
Eye-popping cinematography is the name of the game here, whether in intimate slow-motion shower sex where each droplet of water can be seen flying off a buttocks, or the landscapes that recur each time Casey drifts asleep. Craig Boreham has a clear vision that feels fully realized in a way few queer indie dramas actually do. The narrative being told may not feel particularly new, but the specificity of centering it in Sydney culture and intimacy in mood and filmmaking style quickly won me over. One gets the sense that this was a story the creator was aching to tell—buoyed by excellent turns from Josh Lavery and Daniel Gabriel, Lonesome is captivating, surreal, and jaw-dropping.
Lonesome screened at 2022’s NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival.
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