You’ve really got to hand it to writer/director Craig Boreham for embracing queer eroticism and all that entails in Lonesome, a movie that revels in filth but is at its most uncomfortable when it simply lets its lead characters exist.
Casey (Josh Lavery) is the embodiment of the titular state, a cowboy who has escaped his small country town in Australia for the bright lights and unabashed sexual freedom of Sydney; we learn his leaving is off the back of an affair with a closeted man that is alluded to have ended somewhat brutally. When we meet Casey he’s walking along a busy highway, stopping at a rest stop where he steals a leftover sandwich, before making eyes with a lingering trucker; their bathroom stall sex act the first of many graphic, realistically depicted encounters the film adheres to.
A man of few words, adorned in a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, Casey is a mix of little boy lost and a man overtly confident in his masculinity and what he needs to do to further himself. A Grindr message alert leads him to Tib (Daniel Gabriel), a promiscuous Sydney local, who’s already “entertaining” a nightly visitor when Casey enters the vicinity, watching and then partaking in the group activity that culminates in himself and Tib finding an odd moment of intimacy amongst the sweaty rawness.
It’s evident that the two are attracted to each other beyond the physicality of what constitutes a usual hook-up, and noting each other’s evident ease in their respective companies, Tib takes Casey under his wing, happy to show him the ropes of the Sydney scene. Whilst this dynamic leads to a plethora of furthered graphic sexual depictions – one sequence involving the aggression of another of Tib’s nameless bed buddies speaks to one’s own boundaries of sexual violence – it mainly sets up the culture clash at Lonesome‘s core; of living in an isolated state (both physically and emotionally) and moving to a community of acceptance.
Even in the film’s late narrative shift of Casey selling himself for the enjoyment of a group of BDSM-inclined men – led by Ian Roberts‘s Pietro, the famously open former-footballer turning in a fine performance imbued with both a parental sweetness and intimidating dominance – Lonesome maintains an air of positivity around the act of sex and all it entails. Yes, seeing a man shove scrambled eggs into one of Casey’s orifices is entirely unpleasant, but Boreham never looks down on masochistic-themed sex, and Pietro sensing Casey’s paternal needs adds a surprising layer of tenderness to a subsect of sex so often viewed as degrading.
As loud and confronting Lonesome may be at times, Boreham’s film is ultimately looking at the euphoric nature of acceptance and freedom. There’s a yearning here for Casey to find a place where he belongs, and though the film doesn’t make that space an easy destination, the non-judgemental temperament adhered to makes the journey a welcome one, in spite of its at-times tragic ingredients.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Lonesome is currently screening in theatres in the United States, before available On Demand from March 7th, 2023. It is scheduled for a release in Australian theatres from February 23rd, 2023.