A young construction worker accepts a job with a group of queer rodeo performers and discovers formerly dormant parts of himself, in photographer Luke Gilford’s captivating feature debut.
At 21 years old, soft-spoken construction worker Dylan (Charlie Plummer) is already head of his household. He takes care of his younger brother, helps pay the bills, and maintains a semblance of stability while their alcoholic mother (Robyn Lively) tries to make up for the partying she missed as a young parent. When Dylan accepts a temporary job at the House of Splendor, a ranch community of queer rodeo performers in search of their own version of the American Dream, he finds a chosen family that encourages him to explore formerly dormant parts of himself.
Dylan quickly learns the rhythms of the homestead, working during the day and building deep friendships with the performers during twilight gatherings and picnics. He becomes enthralled by Sky (Eve Lindley) the community’s star barrel dancer and partner of the ranch owner, Pepe (Rene Rosado). The pair’s passionate connection gives Dylan the confidence to forge his own identity, but also threatens to unsettle the equilibrium of this hard-won community.
In this dreamy, glowing debut, set against stunning New Mexico landscapes, photographer Luke Gilford reinvents the coming-of-age story, showing genuine affection for this world, which he first explored in his 2020 photo project on the real International Gay Rodeo Association. Plummer’s naturalistic performance imbues Dylan with great tenderness, but also the quiet assurance of someone who has had to take on the responsibilities and sacrifices of an adult far too soon. As the genderfluid Sky, Lindley also shines, crafting an emotionally rich and sympathetic portrait of a playful and magnetic ingénue.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes, sexual content