Toxic masculinity comes up often lately in the context of equality and civilized behavior: dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions. At first glance it would seem that Cal (Matt Bomer), the father in Alex Smith’s father/son film Walking Out is toxic masculinity incarnate. He starts off bloviating about hunting moose and grouse when his disinterested teenage son David (Josh Wiggins) comes to Montana to spend time with him. All that’s missing is a MAGA hat on Cal and he’d be the full deluxe 2017 “blood and soil” package. That is to say he’d probably be a Trump supporter if he ever deigned to read a paper, watch TV, or have any notion of social media. This man is disconnected from society, preferring the remote wildlife and landscape of Montana. We don’t know how David wound up in Montana, but it seems likely there’s shared custody at work. Cal alludes to David having been there the year before as well. David is absorbed with games on his phone and texting with his Mom in Texas. He cares nothing for live moose or grouse, much less dead ones and how they get that way.
Cal is excited to be taking David to kill his first moose, seeing the violence of hunting as sacred and profound and wants to share his faith with his son. He speaks of how primal David will feel coming home from a good kill. David has normal teenage uncertainty, exacerbated by his dad’s expectation of toughness and wildlife savvy in the snowy mountains. Cal hunts only for the meat following a strict set of rules about hunting ethics. He learned the ways of life and death and the mountain from his own father and he hews closely to the morality therein.
“Cal is excited to be taking David to kill his first moose, seeing the violence of hunting as sacred and profound and wants to share his faith with his son.”
As we get to know him better, Cal defies the obvious country stereotype. He does share his emotions easily and passionately. He expresses unexpected depth in his own coarse way. He tells David that he knows him because “I was you once.”