login | register

First Cow

A simple western about the origin of the American Dream 

Year: 2021 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 (Academy) 
Certificate: BBFC 12 Cert – Not suitable for under 12s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Kelly Reichardt 
Starring: Alia Shawkat, John Magaro, Dylan Smith  
An image from First Cow

A skilled cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business.

The title doesn’t lie: the animal at the centre of this drama is so beautiful, so melancholic and doe-eyed, it will make you believe that you’ve never truly seen a cow before.

But reaching for a clichéd line about the cow being the protagonist would not do justice to this beguiling film—it is about the resourcefulness that grows out of desperation, and a friendship that comes with it. A down-and-out wanderer (John Magaro), known as ‘Cookie’, and a Chinese immigrant named King-Lu (Orion Lee) bond over their loneliness and cook up a scheme (pun fully intended): to steal milk from a recently arrived cow and sell it back to the beast’s English settler owner (Toby Jones) in the form of ‘oily cakes’.

And it’s about the wild Oregon landscapes too. When trying the first mouthful of one of these lactose-laden delights, Jones’ character remarks that he “taste[s] London in this cake”; the film’s pitch-perfect evocation of a place and time is such that you don’t doubt him. Reichardt’s film, like the bovine heroine, is a gentle giant.

Max King

More Information | Back to Previous Schedule | This Season  |  BBFC Classification Guidelines

Screenings of this film:

2021/2022 Autumn Term (digital)