‘Lonesome’ Review: Using Sex, Finding Intimacy

The Australian filmmaker Craig Boreham’s drama credibly depicts characters who feel most comfortable communicating through sex.

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By Teo Bugbee

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The contemporary Australian drama “Lonesome” opens with a buff cowboy hitchhiking along a deserted highway — an image that cheekily recalls well-worn queer archetypes.

Casey (Josh Lavery) is seeking rides to Sydney, Australia. He flags some cars the old-fashioned way, with an outstretched thumb. But other favors are secured in a decidedly 21st-century manner: Casey finds a trucker on the gay dating app Grindr, hitching a ride in exchange for a bathroom quickie.

Casey arrives in Sydney without friends to greet him, but through Grindr, he is able to meet a new hookup, Tib (Daniel Gabriel). The pair engages in group sex, and Casey stays the night. When Tib offers a couch for Casey to crash on, the two begin a cautious and nonexclusive courtship. Sex comes easily in their dynamic, but, slowly, Casey and Tib open themselves up to greater intimacy, haltingly sharing stories of former lovers and absent families.

The writer and director Craig Boreham has made a character study where sex provides the most candid means of communication. Boreham treats the sex and nudity in his film matter-of-factly, and, working with an intimacy coordinator, Leah Pellinkhof, has created scenes that read as authentic.

Boreham eschews close-ups and doesn’t allow the camera to linger on body parts, instead favoring wider angles in intimate scenes. This distanced approach from Boreham and the film’s director of photography, Dean Francis, plainly shows which acts Casey and Tib feel comfortable trying, and with what degree of intensity. The film is explicit without being lascivious — the audience watches Casey and Tib pursue pleasure without being visually invited to join them. “Lonesome” demonstrates a mature use of sex in cinema, a treatment that communicates narrative purpose without diminishing sex’s animalistic, physical side.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. In theaters.

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