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First Cow ★★★★



Director: Kelly Reichardt

Starring: John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones and Evie

Released: Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Kelly Reichardt’s career has always been a joy to follow. Her work focuses on the outsider and takes us on journeys to parts of America we may not have explored before. Her latest film First Cow has received a lot of critical acclaim and was one of the very last films to play in cinemas across the pond last year. Finally, the UK will be able to see what Reichardt has conjured up for us next.

The film follows loner and skilled cook Cookie (John Magaro) who has travelled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds a true connection with a Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee), also seeking his fortune; soon the two collaborate on a successful business, although its longevity is reliant upon the participation of a nearby wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow.

Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow is profoundly touching and emotionally grabs you. Deep within this pristine natural backdrop, we see a peaceful world where integration is necessary and creating your own fortune is a must. The film is shot magnificently like most Reichardt films. Each frame captures an emotion or a feeling, and it takes you on a journey that dialogue can not achieve. The natural environment is lavishly providing a deep organic colour, and the sense of a fresh start can be felt. Cookie and King-Lu want to better their lives, and the earth will provide for them.

Credit : Allyson Riggs / A24 Films

Thematically First Cow is an exploration of the American Dream and integration. There must be a risk to your success, and working with people you may not know can help in your cause. There is a diverse range of people within Reichardt’s vision, and to see some living harmoniously is very endearing. Cookie and King-Lu are perfect examples of people searching for the American Dream. Immigrants who want to better their lives. Their connection and organic bond complement Reichardt’s intimate framing and performances from John Magaro and Orion Lee. This brotherhood of two men from different backgrounds should be an example of how we all should get by and not judge.

There is a warm and tender feeling that First Cow gives to you. It takes you on a journey you may not have cared about, but it eventually weaves its magic on you. Plus, Evie the cow is adorable, and she further enhances the warm embrace of the film. An excellent piece of work from Kelly Reichardt and subtly humbling from beginning to end.

Lover of all things indie and foreign language. Can be found rambling on YouTube at times!

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