Despite cinemas being closed, Film Festivals have kept on going in a virtual capacity. Last year, with only 3 days to do so, the BFI Flare festival integrated its festival onto a virtual platform, thus holding its first ever virtual festival. One such film that I had the pleasure of viewing at both the BFI Flare and the Glasgow film festival this year is Anna Kerrigan’s Cowboys.
The film tells the story of Joe, played by Sasha Knight, an 11 year old transgender boy whose mother Sally, played by Jillian Bell, refuses to embrace his true gender identity. Resenting his mother for not accepting him, as well as, for divorcing his more accepting father, Troy, played by Steve Zahn, Joe begs his dad to take him away. Good hearted, but mentally troubled and unpredictable, Troy hatches a plan to run away to Canada with Joe so they may live together as their true selves.
Echoing narrative similarities to such films as Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace and Taika Waititi’s Hunt for The Wilderpeople, Cowboys sadly doesn’t delve anywhere near as deep into its characters to match either film in quality. This type of narrative relies heavily on character development and character dynamics, so it is confusing to me when the characters motivations and mentalities in Cowboys are frustratingly vague.
Cowboys is a very intriguing idea with an attention grabbing premise and strong dramatic and comedic performances from Steve Zahn and Jillian Bell, however a lack of character exploration and explanation prevents Cowboys from fulfilling the promise of its premise. If you enjoyed Leave No Trace and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, you’ll most likely enjoy this film too, but if it’s a duel between the three then sadly Cowboys has the slowest draw.
Cowboys made it’s UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on 6th March 2021