Friendship, Not Milkshakes
First Cow is not about farming or making milkshakes, but it shows how a cow plays a significant role in the business of two unlikely friends. The cow. played by the lovely Evie, is quite fetching as far as cow beauty goes. She has a promising future in films.
Two unlikely men form a friendship in the 1800s in the rugged woods of Oregon where trapping beavers seems to be the hot occupation. Cookie (John Magaro) is out of his element working with scruffy and tough trappers who mistreat him. He is a cook and wants to be independent. Cookie detaches himself from the gruesome trappers and meets Chinese immigrant Kin-Lu (played by Hong Kong star Orion Lee). King-Lu is a well-spoken man who speaks English as though he were schooled at Oxford. He’s almost a peasant from Northern China where even his own people shun him. He’s trying to make a new life for himself in the Wild West, after having left home at the age of 9.
The men are not interested in beavers, so King-Lu suggests they go into business selling baked goods in the small town where they find themselves. Cookie moves in with King-Lu and fixes up the ramshackle cabin they share. He fluffs it up with sweeping the debris off the floor and decorates the shabby cabin with wildflowers. Cookie is sensitive but the men enjoy each other’s company without any romance involved. Director Reichardt shows how two men can have a close relationship and love each other without getting physically involved.
The only problem with getting a baking business started is that they must steal milk from the only cow in town that belongs to the powerful wealthy land-owner Chief Factor (the excellent Toby Jones). This leads to unexpected difficulties.
Some of the cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt Is exquisite. The beautiful natural terrain, woods, colors of leave, and the gurgling crystal-clear streams make for painter-like daylight scenes. Night scenes are a little too dark, and one needs a seeing-eye dog to help understand what is going on in the pitch black.
Acting by Magaro and Lee is perfectly natural and believable. The two men show their affection for each other in subtle but strong ways. One could say this is a pioneer buddy movie. Director Reichardt deliberately keeps the film at a leisurely pace and none of the scenes are developed at a break-neck speed as in a Star Wars movie. Movie patrons may be shocked by this as many young people want scenes that last two seconds. But this is not that type of film. However, it is a beautifully made piece of cinema.
Although this film so far has only been released in theaters in the US, it will soon make itself shown around the world. Also watch for streaming on television. It’s worth watching.
(Released by A24/ IAC Films/ FilmScience and rated “PG-13” for brief strong language.)