Lonesome gay movie watch is a compelling and sexually charged romantic drama

Hot on the heels of Lonesome's sell-out screening at Queer Screen's Mardi Gras Film Festival, film director Craig Boreham spoke with David Blanco from the FUSE team about his film. Now steaming or available on DVD.
David Blanco  |  Film & TV

'Lonesome' is a compelling and sexually charged romantic drama from AACTA-nominated director Craig Boreham, one of Australia's most exciting queer filmmakers. Lonesome has received accolades at local and international LGBTQI film festivals and positive write-ups in major film publications, including 'Variety'

The film tells the story of Casey (Josh Lavery), an aimless young man haunted by a tragedy in his past, who escapes his small country town to start a new life in Sydney. For Casey, life in the big city involves tenuous employment as well as increasingly risky and transactional sexual encounters. When Casey meets Tib (Daniel Gabriel), a young man also harbouring trauma from the past, they form a bond that may offer Casey the connection he seeks. 

A solitary cowboy dives headfirst into a grungy world of lust and love on the streets of Sydney, in Craig Boreham’s (Teenage Kicks, MGFF17) frank and sometimes confronting Lonesome.

FUSE (David Blanco): Thanks for taking the time to speak with me about your new film, 'Lonesome'. You must be happy with the response it is receiving. It has screened at a number of high-profile festivals, both internationally and at home. What was your experience of seeing the film play to such diverse audiences?

Craig Boreham: It's been great. We've screened at more than fifty international festivals, including the Guadalajara Film Festival in Mexico and the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco. We've been so lucky to travel with the film and see the audience's reactions firsthand. I love that. Lonesome is a very Australian film, so there's always the worry that it won't connect as well with a foreign audience that might not get the cultural references, but it has landed well everywhere.

FUSE: 'Lonesome' and your previous film 'Teenage Kicks' explore the theme of gay youths exploring their sexuality. Do you regard these films as companion pieces?

Craig: The characters in Lonesome are a little older than the characters in Teenage Kicks, and they are much more out in the world. Both films are character studies in a way though Mik in Teenage Kicks was a high school kid in the suburbs while Casey in Lonesome is a cowboy who has wandered out of the landscape and into the big bad city, so they go on quite different journeys. In all my work I'm really interested in telling stories that explore our experience as LGBTQIA+ people, and when I'm making them, in my head, I'm telling them to a queer audience, and I'm not trying to sanitise things or explain our lives to a broader audience.

FUSE: What inspired you to write 'Lonesome'? Is any aspect of it based on your own experiences?

Craig: I drew on some of my own experiences and stories that friends told me. It's always a good place to start writing. Initially, I was working on two separate scripts, one with Casey as the central character and one that was following Tib. Then I had a lightbulb moment and wondered what would happen if these two met each other, and the story kind of just poured out of there.

FUSE: What is 'Lonesome' saying about the gay male community and/or 'the scene' at present? 

Craig: Lonesome is very much set in the world of fleeting encounters in the hook-up app landscape. I was thinking about where the community is right now in Sydney. Our connections via social media can be constant, but the physical community spaces have begun to disappear, and our big cities can be trickier places to navigate when you are searching for people like you. But at heart, it's about finding unexpected connections and finding your people.

FUSE: Lonesome is frank in its depiction of gay sexuality. How did you go about directing actors for those sexually heightened scenes? Did you work with an intimacy coordinator? 

Craig: Yes, we worked with the amazing Leah Pellinkhof, who is a lesbian, and I think having a queer person in that role was fantastic. She really understood what we were doing with the sex scenes, and she worked the whole process with a very queer focus. There are a lot of sex scenes and quite a bit of nudity in the film, so she had her work cut out for her, but having her there made for a really energized set, and it was pretty relaxed to shoot. When directing sex scenes, it's all about consent and the actors having control of what is happening, so it's very freeing for them.

FUSE: Your film boasts an impressive cast, including Josh Lavery in the lead role and Ian Roberts, who is particularly memorable as Pietro. Can you tell our readers about 'Lonesome's' casting process? 

Craig: Casting was pretty unconventional. I wanted a queer cast and crew as much as possible, and that can be harder to pull off than people think. A lot of our actors are still reluctant to take on queer roles here because there is still that fear of being pigeonholed, and the film is pretty racy. I worked with the amazing Marianne Jade from Maura Faye Casting, and we did a variation of street casting but online because we were in lockdown. I was trawling Instagram and even Grindr to find people. There are a lot of queer people in the film who don't come from an acting background but are queer artists in other forms that I really love. Both the leads, Josh Lavery and Daniel Gabriel, really understood the characters and brought a lot of insight to them.

FUSE:'Lonesome' has a distinct and striking visual style – how did you and Dean Francis, the film's Director of Photography, find the look you wanted?

Craig: We looked at a lot of different stuff for inspiration. We drew on classic Western films and tried to play with urban landscapes in a similar way. We looked at Italian neo-realist films and the way they shot action on the street, often on long lenses, so the camera is a long way from the action, and it gives a very real-world energy to the image. But we also drew on classic queer cinema to bring a heightened saturated look to the film, which becomes increasingly heightened as the film progresses.

FUSE: What's next for Craig Boreham? 

Craig: I'm working on an adaptation of Peter Polites' novel Down the Hume. It's a very gay neo-noir set in Western Sydney, and Pete and I are deep in script drafting right now, so look out for that one!

Lonesome  Rated R – High Impact Sexualised Violence, sex scenes and nudity. 95 minutes. Available in Australia at JB HiFi

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