Sydney Film Festival 2022 Review: Lonesome ★★★1/2

UPDATE: Lonesome screens at Queer Screen’s 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival running in cinemas in Sydney and on demand Australia-wide from February 15th to March 2nd, 2023. Click here for tickets and more information.

Director Craig Boreham (Teenage Kicks, Drowning) is back with another tale of young gay men looking for meaning and connection, alienated from the support structures around them in the aptly titled Lonesome.

Casey (Josh Lavery) is a country boy making his way to Sydney for the first time. A truck-stop hook-up sets the tone; he cruises for sex, and when the anonymous driver offers him a lift, he refuses the helping hand. Once in the city, with no plan and no contacts, he uses hookup apps to find sex, and moments of reprieve (food, a warm shower, a place to sleep). At one group session he meets Tib (Daniel Gabriel) and the two form a bond, both sexual and emotional. Tib helps Casey settle in to life in the city, and both their walls start to come down when they’re around each other. But it’s not easy to let go of defenses built up over years, or to heal from the pain.

Daniel Gabriel and Josh Lavery in Lonesome. Courtesy of Sydney Film Festival 2022.

There is a moment early on in Lonesome when Casey sees the beach for the first time. He’s never seen the coast. A sharp edit cuts to two surfers reviving a drowned Casey on the beach. Was it his inexperience or his desire to end his own life that brought him to the brink of tragedy? 

Josh Lavery in Lonesome. Courtesy of Sydney Film Festival 2022.

Boreham peppers the film with breakout moments: the duo dancing to country music in their underwear, an illicit swim after dark, lounging on a rooftop sofa; visual moments that lift the storytelling and give Lonesome a truly cinematic feel. The dialogue is minimalistic, and Lavery’s Casey can be hard to read which can make some scenes fall flat, but there is a captivatingly harsh charm to him that contrasts with Tib’s generous, carefree personality. When Casey’s playful side comes forward he’s easy to like.

Lavery and Gabriel never hold back from their roles, which require a lot of nudity; sex and their youthful bodies are currency both of their characters trade in. And the film is full of sex; sex as a tool, sex as a release, sex as intimacy, sex as power. But Casey’s needs aren’t physical. 

Daniel Gabriel in Lonesome. Courtesy of Sydney Film Festival 2022.

Narratively Lonesome doesn’t stray too far from familiar queer cinema territory; it’s a variation on “handsome young gay men fucking and suffering for their sexuality, while really looking for love”. It does stand out though by throwing in some new flavours that give Lonesome a welcoming, warm tone.

By Chad Armstrong

Lonesome received its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival.

Screens at the 40th Anniversary Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival on Saturday, July 23rd at 9:30pm at Directors Guild of America, Theater 1.

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