July 14, 2020
By: Nicholas Ruhrkraut | July 13th, 2020

'First Cow' is On VOD July 10th, 2020.

Fans of Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Certain Women) will not be disappointed by her newest feature and collaboration with A24, First Cow. In a newly formed Oregon Territory, a cook, aptly named Cookie (John Magaro), befriends a hungry Chinese immigrant, King Lu, (Orion Lee) in search of a golden fortune and a better life. The opening epigraph, “The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship,” underlies the entirety of the film from the looming yet serene image of two skeletons being discovered in the first scene. Furthermore, it is used to explore the sensibility of the male characters, serving as the backbone to this intimate tale.

The title refers to the first milking cow to inhabit the area after being brought in by a local, wealthy landowner Chief Factor (Toby Jones). Cookie and King Lu create their own capitalistic opportunity by stealing milk from the cow and open their own business in making “oily cakes.” The treats made fresh daily are sold out within minutes and before long, the two men have enough money- currently being stored in a tree- to leave the unfulfilling and increasingly dangerous area.

Kelly Reichardt and Cristopher Blauvelt, the cinematographer who has worked on many of her films, use their signature static camera with confined frames, broad pans, and long takes to uniquely create tension in an otherwise muted landscape. By relying on the audience to actively participate in viewing, part of the reward comes from piecing together the seemingly abrupt conclusion. The rest of the reward comes in experiencing the delight of this simple yet moo-ving tale.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Nick Nicholas Ruhrkraut (Contributor) lives in New York City but is a Midwestern boy at heart. He loves discussing everything film on his podcast "Oscar Wild," cooking and baking at home, reading, and traveling.
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