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Director: Craig Boreham (Australia). Year of Release: 2022

A truck stop on the road to Sydney. A young man wearing a stetson, looking not unlike Jimmy Somerville in the Smalltown Boy video, is sitting, watching the topless men filling their trucks with petrol. After a while, he goes up to one of them and has a word. It’s not long before they’re fucking. The trucker offers the cowboy a lift, but he says he’s fine as he is. Not long after, we see him stood by the roadside hitch hiking.

The next time we see the cowboy, he’s entering a swish party. He connects his phone to a plug socket, and while he is charging it, he goes to the kitchen and swipes a bottle of Jack Daniels. While he’s taking as much food as he can from the outside table, a woman comes up to him and makes pointless small talk. He introduces himself as Casey, but says little else. When the woman shouts over to the party host, he makes a swift exit, taking the whisky and his phone with him.

Casey is new in town and still doesn’t have anywhere to stay, so he hooks up on a date on Grindr (or some equivalent). There he can have a threesome then find a place to sleep before he goes off to whatever he’s going to do next. In the threesome, Casey meets Tib. Tib is a iTasker, which apparently involves fetching and carrying for people who contact you online. He is more tuned in to the big city, and offers Casey a place on his couch, and maybe in his bed.

There is a lot of joyless fucking in Lonesome. I mention this not out of any prudery, but because although most of the characters are getting a lot of sex, they don’t seem to be taking much fun from it. Sometimes it’s the sort of transactional sex that Casey uses to get a place to sleep or a shower, but more often the general ennui pervading the film means that no-one seems to take pleasure from anything. Sex is just something you do when you’ve got time on your hands.

Nonetheless, Tib and Casey get closer, although their conversation style won’t be worrying Oscar Wilde (sample from when they’re cooking: “you need to put some Cumin in that”. “I’ll put some cum in you”). Tib finds some work for Casey which mainly involves gardening with their tops off for rich lonely women. Tib thinks that they are overpaid because the women fancy them, but it turns out that they remind them of their sons.

Tib and Casey are both given back stories to make them sound more interesting. Both have violent fathers from whom they have fled. Added to that, Tib is Black and his mother has been deported. His main wish is to find a way of bringing her back to Australia. Tib also knows that when the police come knocking, they are going to take a particular interest in someone like him. Nonetheless, his reaction is to enjoy life as much as he can, and to sleep with as many men as he can find.

Casey is more taciturn, for reasons that are explained by 2 messages that he receives on his phone. One is from his mother who warns him that his father is the same as ever, and Casey should not try to ring back. The other is from a former lover who equally forcefully tells Casey to keep his distance. We later learn that he is a married man with kids, but when his affair with Casey became public knowledge, this was more than a small town could deal with.

There seems to be enough drama in all of this to make for a compelling story, but somehow it all falls flat. I’m not sure how much this is to do with the fact that we only hear about the interesting parts of Casey’s and Tib’s lives in their slightly self-pitying story telling. Their present day life is, dare one say it, slightly boring. And while I appreciate that this is exactly what the survivors from such traumatic experiences would look for in their lives, it does not make for captivating cinema.

Casey and Tib escape from their past lives in different ways. Tib tries to lose himself in random sex with strangers. Casey is more – did you guess it from the film’s title? – lonesome. He turns in on himself, while being obviously hurt by Tib’s promiscuity. If he were confident enough to say anything, he might ask Casey for a more conventional relationship. But things come to a head when Tib picks up a bloke who’s into rough stuff and invites Casey into the bedroom.

Casey hits a downward spiral and, for want of any alternative, gets involved in BDSM parties organised by an older man who pays him to be abused, both physically and verbally. You get the feeling that we are watching a metaphor for how low Casey’s life has sunk. Although the film leaves it open whether he is doing this as a penance, whether he hates himself so much that he accepts this denigration, or, as the older man tells him, that he loves it really.

If the film were to end here, it would at least have some sort of trajectory, but it feels the need to conclude with a sentimental happy ending. For 90% of the film, we have been shown one stereotype of gay films (being gay is a horrible existence), but then we quickly segue into another (love conquers everything). It might have worked if the characters were remotely sympathetic, but – at least as far as I was concerned – I didn’t care enough about what happened to any of them.

I’ve said it before, but at the risk of repeating myself. It’s great that there are more films than ever showing the gay experience. Now all we need is for the experience being shown to be halfway interesting.

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