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Senior Citizen Kane: First Cow

Kelly Reichardt

After the success of Nomadland, Chloé Zhao may be the name on everyone’s lips. It is easy to forget that she belongs to a long line of independent filmmakers whose work has told the story of ordinary Americans. For the DCA cinema team, one of the very best in this tradition is Kelly Reichardt, whose films (Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) also capture the quiet rhythm of day-to-day existence in rural America. 

“…encourages you to slow down and wonder at the beguiling rhythm of daily life”

With First Cow, Reichardt takes us back in time to the Pacific Northwest frontier where the life of an early nineteenth-century settler was undeniably tough. Cookie Figowitz (John Magaro), a taciturn loner and skilled cook, has travelled west and falls in with a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory. En route, he meets and connects with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee), also seeking his fortune. Soon, these unusual pair collaborate on an unusual business – baking. Although their cakes become highly sought after in the region, the success of their endeavour relies precariously on the clandestine participation of the prized milking cow belonging to a nearby wealthy landowner. 

From this simple premise, Reichardt explores in her quiet way some very big ideas:  the American Dream, masculinity, and the enduring power of friendship. Driven by mounting suspense all its own, First Cow encourages you to slow down and wonder at the beguiling rhythm of daily life and the importance of human connection.  Gentle but devastating, this is absolutely a film which resonates with our times.  We urge you not to miss it. 

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