Rarely do you encounter a film that is so soothing and tender. A film that makes the ills of your life disappear so you can enter a world that is pure bliss. First Cow is that film. The beautiful blossoming friendship between Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lee) makes up the beating heart of this film. The domestic bliss of their homely shack, where they cook and eat, is a hit of dopamine while being a humorous twist on those gender roles that defined many films of this genre. Rather than it being a western of old, it sees Cookie and King-Lu reject that formulaic hyper-masculinity. They favour baking biscuits and stealing milk from the titular cow, the first to grace the frontier region, which is just as masculine as any gung-ho character Clint Eastwood ever played.
The rejection of those gender tropes allows director Kelly Reichardt to naturally and effortlessly weave tension into the film, where seemingly not a lot is happening. The ‘nothingness’ of First Cow is its beauty, but Reichardt is still able to indict capitalism, masculine violence and the plight of the American dream while still championing the minimalism that defines her films. This beauty is all captured in a stunning 4:3 aspect ratio. It doesn’t feel claustrophobic but rather intimate and tactile. To best enjoy this film, see it on the big screen and let it wash over you.
“Let it wash over you, and it’ll linger for days, soothing your soul.”