Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir-scr Anna Kerrigan
prd Gigi Graff, Anna Kerrigan, Dylan Sellers, Chris Parker
with Steve Zahn, Jillian Bell, Sasha Knight, Ann Dowd, Gary Farmer, Chris Coy, John Reynolds, Bob Stephenson, AJ Slaght, John Beasley, Seth Breding, Angela Marshall
release US Apr.20 tff,
UK Mar.21 flare
20/US 1h23

zahn bell dowd
bfi flare

Is it streaming?

knight and zahn
Spectacular Montana landscapes add natural beauty to this modern-day Western, which takes on complex issues with sensitivity and big-hearted humour. Writer-director Anna Kerrigan tells the story with beautifully observed style, quietly catching the perspective of a trans child looking for someone to see him for who he is. The story perhaps bites off more than it can chew, overcomplicating an already important central theme. But it's involving and strikingly well-made.
After separating from his wife, the troubled Troy (Zahn) runs off with his 11-year-old son Joe (Knight), because his wife Sally (Bell) refuses to let Joe be himself: a boy. So Troy takes Joe on a camping trip the wilderness, stopping over with their friend Robert (Farmer) and borrowing a horse so they can make an escape across the border to Canada. Meanwhile, Sally is working with quietly tenacious police detective Faith (Dowd) to track down Troy and Joe. And when Troy loses his meds, he has to work extra hard to hold things together.
In flashbacks, Joe tells his father that he doesn't wear dresses because he's not a girl; he thinks he's been put in this body as a joke. Troy struggles with this, but loves his child unconditionally. On the other hand, Sally rejects this flatly, turning on Troy and reacting badly to an incident with her brother and nephew (Coy and Slaght). Meanwhile, Troy's increasingly unstable mental condition adds issue-based layers to his wilderness odyssey with Joe, but it also muddles the movie's topicality with standard thriller elements.

The terrific Zahn brings his enormous charm to the role, connecting beautifully with Knight's lively, alert young Joe. Zahn plays Troy's internal struggles with understated skill. His scenes with Bell are punchy and strong, two caring parents at loggerheads over something neither of them understands. The interaction between these three characters is packed with detail that's strongly well-played by the actors. Each one is easy to identify with on meaningful levels, seen largely through Joe's perceptive eyes.

As events progress, Troy's mental condition begins to take over from the more resonant exploration of Joe's gender identity. Thankfully, the actors continue to make sure that each thing that happens is both thoughtful and powerfully moving. When Joe tells his father that he can't live with his mother, it's also wrenching. As is her reaction as she begins to understand why. So While Kerrigan adds additional big themes and more action than was strictly necessary, it's still a tender, vital tale.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Mar.21 flare

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