Steve Zahn delivers a performance way beyond expectations in this touching film about the lengths a father will go for his child. Add in the solid outing from Jillian Bell and the stunning performance by young Sasha Knight, Cowboys is a touching original tale that dives into the complexities of parenting, identity, and acceptance.
Zahn’s gender-nonconforming child (Joe) simply wants to be a cowboy, something the child’s mother is adamantly against as she tries to force her into female clothing, playing with girl-oriented toys, and more. When Joe and her father, who suffers from bipolar disorder, go on the run towards Canada, a manhunt is launched that stretches across picturesque Montana. Cowboys is a unique challenge to hyper-masculinity, taking the all American boy and flipping him on his head. Through the turmoil of the situation, Joe’s mother confronts her own biases and feelings as Joe herself adopts the role of the adult with her father, who has lost his pills. All fo this transpires as the filmmakers systematically build your empathy towards each of the characters involved.
Writer-director Anna Kerrigan has delivered an emotionally intelligent film in Cowboys, elevated by the casting of a young trans actor in Knight. It is hard to come away from this film and not feel compassion towards Joe, even for those who may not be familiar with transgender individuals or issues. Kerrigan doesn’t take you to school for a lesson, rather she lets the story play out in a natural format that elicits great empathy from the audiences and head-turning performances by all involved.
Photo from Hollywood Reporter