NYFF 57 review: – Kelly Reichardt’s ‘First Cow’ is a film about male friendship in the early 19th century.

First Cow

  • Kelly Reichardt
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 122 minutes

New York Premiere ยท

Kelly Reichardt once again trains her perceptive and patient eye on the Pacific Northwest, this time evoking an authentically hardscrabble early 19th-century way of life for this tale of a taciturn loner and skilled cook (John Magaro) who has joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, but only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) also seeking his fortune.

Kelly Reichardt has a style all her own. You can pick out a film of hers within the first five minutes of long drawn out, beautifully cinematic shots. First Cow is based on the novel “The Half-Life” by John Raymond who is also a longtime collaborator with Reichardt. The story follows a quiet man called Cookie who is making his way across the Oregan territory with a group of fur trappers. Stumbling upon a clearly educated Chinese immigrant named King Lu, the men become fast friends in uncertain times. This film is essentially about male bonding in a time and environment that is driven by greed and aggression. The kindness and sincerity of our two leads, John Magaro and Orion Lee, bounds off the screen. You believe in their earnest chemistry. With Reichardt’s usual use of natural light and sparse dialogue, we are fully entrenched in the almost uninhabitable world these two men live in. At moments, this feels like a buddy comedy and I do mean that as a complete compliment. Some of the greatest moments in the script occur within the conversations between Cookie and the cow, itself. It must be mentioned the sheer number of wonderfully acted ancillary characters is mind-boggling. Sweet and funny, and bursting with charm, First Cow is something special in its storytelling.

https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2019/films/first-cow/