A fairy tale theme of childhood innocence lost by family indignity and secrets, director Zaida Bergroth tells the story of two endearing and wildly inventive brothers Rupert and Evert in the Finnish country side of the 1970’s. In this Finnish middle class family is a loving and caring mother who explodes into random fits of unstable rage and a charming loveable father who is untrustworthy and abusive. Skavabölen Pojat (Last Cowboy Standing) juggles between the past and present of the two brothers and their childhood with their mother and father. Rupert recalls the memory of the iconic moment when he found a secret letter from his father’s mistress, which marked the end to his idyllic childhood and loving family. The two brothers try to make sense of their childhood growing into adulthood, where their imaginative days of fantasy plays of cowboys and Indians are long gone and sweetheart romances with the neighbour girls have moved away. Partly an autobiographical play and adapted onto the big screen, director Zaida Bergroth shows the bittersweet nostalgia portrayal of a Finnish middle class family life in the 70’s and 80’s.
In the boys’ past we are shown a happy family with what seems to be the beginning of happy memories of family values, Finnish culture and childhood but which really marks the end to this fairy tale. A hidden letter shakes the very core of the family which they never really recover from as children Rupert and Evert witness the cruelty of their loving father when he beats their mother. Family friend’s whisper of separation and the father’s new girlfriend clouds confusion for the boys but this only fuels Rupert futile attempt into holding the family together. However after more confusion and tragedy strikes the boys, their innocence is finally lost. In the present day we see a guilt ridden and much older Rupert trying to make sense of his discovery which leads to the chaos of his family in the past and present. To find absolution he delves deep in to his past in an emotional roller-coaster of tragedy which this family is constantly cursed with.
Last Cowboy Standing is a brutally wretched confession that hides a hidden message of domestic violence and abuse in Finland during 1970's and 80's. It is a film that shows the loss of virtue and family values. Just like a matryoshka doll with the decreasing and smaller dolls, we already knew from the beginning the hollow emptiness of the truth. The more we venture through the family history we begin to realise we actually know the outcome all along.