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Inside Out 2020 Review: Cowboys

October 4, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Troy (Steve Zahn) is the father of Joe (Sasha Knight), who was assigned female at birth but has recently revealed that he is transgender and was born in the wrong body. When Joe’s mother Sally (Jillian Bell) refuses to accept who he is, Troy escapes with him into the Montana wilderness as a last resort. Troy and Joe share a love of cowboys, and are heading towards the Canadian border in search of freedom. Sally reports them as missing, and it gets treated as a kidnapping, leading to a tense manhunt headed by a local police detective (Ann Dowd), who starts to discover there is more to the story.

Written and directed by Anna Kerrigan, Cowboys is an impactful drama that builds up a lot of suspense as it goes along. Kerrigan shows a sure hand behind the camera, crafting a film that works as both an engaging missing persons thriller as well as a thoughtful study of masculinity and gender identity. This is subject matter that, in the wrong hands, could have felt sensationalistic and exploitative, but Kerrigan instead brings a great deal of empathy and understanding to the material. The film also features some beautiful images of the natural landscapes courtesy of cinematographer John Wakayama Carey.

In a surprising dramatic turn, Zahn delivers perhaps the best performance of his career in the role of Troy, a complex character who doesn’t always make the best choices, but is always striving to do what’s best for his son. The film also gets major credit for casting a young transgender actor in the role of Joe, and Knight shows incredible maturity in his nuanced performance. Offering an exciting spin on the Western genre, Cowboys is a film that took me by surprise with how good it was, and it deserves to be a breakout hit of the festival.

Sasha Knight and Steve Zahn in Cowboys

The 30th annual Inside Out LGBT Film Festival runs from October 1st to 11th, with online screenings available to anyone in Ontario, and some special drive-in presentations in Toronto.

Cowboys is screening online until October 11th, tickets can be purchased right here.

More Inside Out 2020 Reviews: Dating Amber; Jump, Darling; Shiva Baby (TIFF 2020)No Ordinary Man (TIFF 2020); Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story (Hot Docs 2020); There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace (Hot Docs 2020); The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (TIFF 2019).

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