Below is the first of four brief reviews of films that appeared at the Provincetown International Film Festival in June, returning in person after a two-year hiatus. While not an LGBT festival, there are always plenty of entries that match this magazine’s mission.
The protagonist of Lonesome is one of those gay men that you would never pick out of a crowd, a taciturn cowboy from Australia’s cattle country who just happens to fancy the dudes. We meet him hitchhiking on a lonesome highway en route to Sydney, having been cast out of his hometown (we later learn), not for being gay but for getting involved with a married man—with dire consequences. “I just took off,” he explains.
Once in Sidney, Casey doesn’t seem to have much of a plan, at first surviving by petty theft, crashing parties, and sleeping on the beach. Grindr to the rescue! He soon meets a guy named Tib who does odd jobs and worries about his immigration status. Tib is an ethnically mixed, street-smart twenty-something who’s immersed in Sidney’s gay culture, while Casey is so white that he’s in constant danger of sunburn. Casey moves into Tib’s flat (it turns out he’s squatting); they shop together at the supermarket; Tib brings Casey to his gig working as a gardener for a lonely middle-aged woman. Things are going too well to last, and of course they don’t. The break comes when Tib brings home another guy and jealousy enters the room, and then violence, and soon Casey is back on the street. He turns to hustling to survive, but when things head south very rapidly on this front, he reaches out to Tib, who seems to have vanished.
The structure of Lonesome has elements of “Boy meets boy, boy loses boy…,” but it’s such a strange twist on this motif that it remains a highly original and compelling story in the hands of director Craig Boreham. Casey is far from a wide-eyed neophyte in search of love. He is in fact damaged goods, an outcast who’s haunted by the past. Tib, too, is an exile in a foreign land, but his enemies are external ones (Australian Immigration) rather than inner demons of guilt and rejection.
Still, it would be glib to suggest that their status as “exiles” is what binds Casey and Tib as a couple. What brought them together initially was a compulsive physical attraction that manifests itself in some pretty explicit sex scenes. What sustains the relationship after the sexual intensity drops a notch is what they have to figure out. They had something more going for them before the break; can they pick up where they left off?