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  • Gareth Crook

First Cow (2019) - 7/10

I know nothing about this going in, but have vague recollections of seeing it advertised and for some reason it stuck. The poster is quite nice, but maybe it’s the title, First Cow, what could it be about. Well it’s about a cow, or at least a cow is part of the story. Shot in 4:3 it feels oddly intimate. I say oddly as the location here is wide open and nearly entirely outdoors or influenced by it. Cookie (John Magaro) is in the Oregon wilderness. Foraging. Surviving. He’s a trapper. More accurately he’s the cook for a gang of trapper’s. He doesn’t seem all that well suited to his rough and tough group. He’s sensitive. Enter King-Lu (Orion Lee), right away despite the cultural differences it’s clear these two are going to get along. Cookie maybe timid, but he’s resourceful, smart. Qualities he also finds in King-Lu, along with a philosophical positivity. They are the light in what’s a generally dark, dirty, damp and sodden world, but it’s not a bleak film, it’s really quite hopeful. The pace is slow and thoughtful, just like Cookie. It gives it a real sincerity, finding beauty in the sometimes mundane. Cookie and King-lu together find peace. Time to dream… and so to the cow. It’s not their’s this rare creature, the only one in the territory, but with a stealthfull milking regime and Cookie’s baking skills, they find themselves a business selling their “Oily Cakes” with its ‘secret ingredient’ milk. Everything seems to be going well, but… and there’s always a but. Things are about to get complicated as Toby Jones steps onto screen as Chief Factor, the boss of the local fort where business is done… and owner of the cow. Jones is brilliant, nearly stealing the show, but all the characters are rich, with an impressive diversity that all coexist rather happily. Including Ewen Bremner going full Scottish complete with traditional bonnet. The Cow is Chief Factors pride and joy. For Cookie and King-Lu their meal ticket to a better life, but getting there won’t be easy. Of course, First Cow isn’t really about a cow. The same way Jaws isn’t about a shark. Bathed in melancholia, it’s a real slow burn treat of a film, that will leave you feeling calm, rested and with a renewed faith that good people have always existed and will always exist.



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