Is Australian queer cinema reaching a new golden age? With a history of jewels from 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' to 'Head On', has a new voice risen in director/screenwriter Craig Boreham to deliver another gem to the queer cinematic crown? With a uniquely Australian twist on the country boy coming to the big city to find themselves trope, 'Lonesome' certainly sparkles stronger than some of them.
Casey (Josh Lavery) is a stoic cowboy escaping to the big city after a small-town scandal, the bright lights and seeming freedom of a world of possibilities pulling him in many directions. In the world of online gay apps, he is drawn to Tib (Daniel Gabriel) and together, they slowly realise that the thing that they have both been somehow missing and yearning for at the same time isn’t as far away as they thought.
Craig Boreham has written and directed this somehow brutal, but also delicate, insight into the lives of these young gay men. If you have seen Boreham’s debut feature and coming of age film 'Teenage Kicks', you will recognise the ever-present and subtle yearning that underpins both of these films, along with the yearning for acceptance, love and a sense of normal. Undoubtedly, Boreham is one of the most exciting queer voices in the Australian cinematic landscape, and with ‘Lonesome’ only being their second feature I eagerly await what is next.
What ‘Lonesome’ doesn’t do is shy away from the gritty details of Casey’s reality. Homeless in the city, relying on hook-ups for showers and food and doing whatever odd jobs they can for cash, it’s not an easy life. But if you thought that you were not going to be shown these things, or even if they were to be more euphemistically mentioned, you’d have another thing coming. There is an unflinching approach to sex and nudity that could leave some viewers shocked – but this is entirely the point, as sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
What ‘Lonesome’ doesn’t do is shy away from the gritty details of Casey’s reality. Homeless in the city, relying on hook-ups for showers and food and doing whatever odd jobs they can for cash, it’s not an easy life.
Lavery and Gabriel have a brilliant on-screen chemistry. Lavery is the quiet country guy and Gabriel the more exuberant city-smart person, and that dynamic is played to perfection. Ian Roberts makes an intense appearance towards the latter half of the film, and it's truly one of his most memorable roles. I never expected to feel the way I did towards Lavery’s Casey as I did, but the slow, brooding unwinding of his characterisation is almost hypnotic to watch. I especially felt like there was a low undertone throughout his performance where at any moment Casey might commit suicide, fitting with the title of the film but also making the viewer feel the same sense of loneliness. There can be nothing more confronting than feeling like you’ll never belong anywhere.
'Lonesome' is a beautiful film where we get to see a gay love story unfold, in what is a rare gem amongst such films in that it doesn’t hide those moments that might make it seem too much for the average audience. It knows exactly who it's being made for and is okay with that; if anything, it is displaying more of a reality than what other staples of the genre do. It's subtle, heartbreaking and raw and, for fans of queer Australian cinema, is not to be missed this film festival season.