8 September 2020 | khaktus
Nice, important, tear-squeezing, but slightly didactic
The movie has a potential to become a seasonal treasure of the queer cinema, but also left me with an awkward feeling. I am happy that the topic of two-spirit roles among the Native Americans arrived to the feature film screen. But in the broadness of what those roles represented and what meanings it carries for the present - I find it very paradoxical that it appears only as a mere "mention" - the character of Poopahte just "is" there for a moment and indirectly becomes a trigger for the self-reflection of the main character from the oldest timeline. His paintings are then just a "pretty souvenir" decorating the point(s) of the further timelines.
The cowboy story line is in the first-plane view the most attractive part, thanks to the unbearably handsome styling of Benjamin Rigby (Alien:Covenant) and Kiowa Gordon and references to the still popular gay fantasies induced (also) by Brokeback Mountain. With a pleasant/progressive interracial twist. But the story flows somewhat predictably, didactically, artificially nicely or artificially emotionally moving.
The second timeline revolves around teenage dream of escaping the small-town reality and meeting amazing creatures on an amazing road-trip. Stolen-moment excitement. It is decorated by the presence of South African singer Nakhane (known from the exotic xhosa gay story Inxeba), who again very charmingly and naturally inhabits his role (quite much himself, I'd say).
The third line - the cautious opening up of the suicidal trans-boy to his maternally-caring non-binary therapist - is the most contemporary and acute one, although also the most "by the textbook".
That's the sand grinding between the smiling teeth - the movie presents its meaningful messages and lecture very straightforwardly. Sometimes evoking feeling of watching an educative documentary on gender-related issues for high-school students. The dialogues could not be more simple, direct and purposeful. The script is missing some refinement, naturalness.
On the other hand I appreciate the well made visuals, the intense (though a little kitschy) atmosphere depiction in various spaces of its stories. The beautiful but also hopeless monotony of Montana or Wyoming prairies or social space. I see the film's added value in stepping beyond cheesy masculine gay romance, including the trans and intersex and two-spirit characters and topics. It's all there (positive) alas it's all just there (negative). All the timelines nicely meet, complement, explain themselves - it's a beautifully made "bouquet" - but with a strong aftertaste of being (cleverly) arranged. Good start.