Stranger by the Lake is available to rent or buy now.
For many men, the excitement, apprehension, fear and desire of cruising for sex remains a core part of their world, whether in person or online. Here the secret, clandestine and often risky public encounters they engage in transcend the labels of gay, bi, straight or trans. After all, in this secretive world, sexual identity is rarely raised apart from the stats surrounding an individual’s profile or your first view of them from a distance, offering an opportunity to escape the restrictive labels of male identity.
Of course, whether online or in-person, cruising remains full of risk, with men of all ages hoping to catch a new partner for no strings fun. Here their everyday lives are placed to one side as they become the hunter or the hunted in a world of sexual freedom and instant desire. Sometimes these meetings are scary, abrupt and disappointing, while sometimes, they are full of energy, passion, wit or humour.
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The act of cruising has found a voice in several thrillers over the years, most notably William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980), starring Al Pacino. However, Cruising caused more than its fair share of controversy on release, as the gay community rebuffed the final picture for various reasons (but that is a whole other story). By 2013, gay sex on screen may have come out of the closet in many ways, but Stranger by the Lake would challenge the public’s perceptions of cruising by reflecting on the risks and joy of anonymous sex. The result is a film laced with themes of blind trust, desire, human fragility and connection. Here, Alain Guiraudie’s film burns bright with the sexual desire, risk and passion of the cruising ground while encasing this in a slow-burn mystery thriller that is utterly captivating.
Stranger by the Lake is not only a groundbreaking LGBTQ+ thriller; it’s a commentary on blind love, a need for belonging at any cost and the choices we make in searching for the ‘one’. The result is an atmospheric, Hitchcockian thriller that works on multiple levels while leaving its audience on a nail-biting cliffhanger Hitchcock himself would be proud of.
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