Plot: Although New York City is always teeming with events of some kind, on July 4th, things really come to life. The holiday draws out couples in droves, to celebrate and kiss under the beautiful fireworks, quite a unique experience. But while the good times roll for some, others don’t have a partner and rather than feel out of place, some of the singles just remain at home. Mary (Barbara Kent) and Jim (Glenn Tryon) are two such single people, but the festivities are so loud and enticing, each decides to venture to Coney Island, partner or no. The two discover the locale is packed with revelers, but somehow, they run into each other and spark a quick connection. This leads to a night of fun, excitement, and a whirlwind romance, but the two are having such a time that no one thinks to ask for names or other personal information. So when the two find themselves separated, neither knows how to proceed and after that glimpse of a better life, both struggle to move on.
Entertainment Value: This movie was released in 1928, but it honestly feels like a much more modern production. When compared to most films from this period, Lonesome seems light years ahead in terms of artistry and craftsmanship. There’s just this look to the movie is hard to explain, but it has a texture of real life, almost like we are watching a documentary of sorts. That is a difficult texture to reproduce, even decades down the road, so for a movie to nail it in the 20s is beyond remarkable. The movie’s visuals shine even beyond that however, with some bold elements that add washes of color and even some surreal moments at times. The story here is a great one, but Lonesome is as much of a pure experience as a traditional narrative, thanks to the creative and inventive visual design elements involved. A lot of movies have beautiful or bold visuals, but few have this level of artistic excellence, where you have to keep rewatching scenes, just to soak in the experience.
In the sea of those beautiful visuals, Lonesome also boasts some terrific performances that stand out. Barbara Kent and Glenn Tryon turn in performances that seem so natural and grounded, the romance seems all too real. The chemistry is fantastic and in the happier times, the two are simply radiant, then convey the depths of sadness when the narrative pulls them apart. Just as the visuals and atmosphere have that sense of realism, so do the lead performances and that is impressive work. It could have been easy for the actors to be lost in the shuffle with so many exceptional elements at work here, but they more than hold their own. As I mentioned before, Lonesome has some very modern, even almost surreal qualities and that includes bold, limited use of color tint, some scenes with talking parts, and dreamlike sequences that are so beautiful and really stand out as memorable. Lonesome is one of those rare movies that is just eons ahead of its time, a true marvel and it earns a high recommendation.