From the revered Kelly Reichardt, the film First Cow is a soft-spoken, slow force-of-nature about the ambition of two men on the run in the early Oregon Territories. By night they steal milk from the first cow to be brought there. Cookie, the former hand of a baker, makes biscuits with them, and the two sell them at market. They make plans to save up their earnings and move to California.
It is a captivating, beautifully told story. Reichardt has a knack for wrapping the world of her films around you. The warmth of their atmosphere, the cool dialogue, and the authentic emotion of her characters is consistent throughout her filmography. Building upon her slow motion, situationist style of filmmaking she established in 2008’s Wendy and Lucy (one of the very best movies from that decade), Reichardt has delivered her most powerful film yet.
The color and visual style of the film is very singular, but the 4:3 aspect ratio is becoming a tired trend– especially when the film is shot digitally. The set design and wonderful camera work might have been better served in a modern widescreen format. The soundtrack is subdued, but adds a lot to the folksy feeling of the picture. Every performance feels real, and each line feels carefully considered. I can only imagine how much of a blast this movie was to make.
There is truthfully little to say about this movie. As soon as you finish, it becomes ingrained in your head, sitting on the shelf of your early memories of books, homey films and music. I cannot recommend this movie more. I give Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, a 4 out of 5.