First Cow Move Recommendation and Dissection

First Cow Move Recommendation and Dissection
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First Cow Move Recommendation and Dissection. Come on. First Cow? It begs the question – doesn’t it? First Cow? The President’s cow? In Eden, the first cow? What the heck is a “First Cow” and what could a movie entitled First Cow possibly be about? I thought the same thing. The movie title had sort of bopping into, and out of, the indie world circles for the last year. And each time it popped up, I condescendingly looked down my nose at the title, and went my way. I can be such an ass sometimes. (SOMETIMES? the chorus cries.)

But this film is glorious. It comes from A24, and they always win. Cannot wait for The Green Knight. So stoked. Anyway, First Cow is just a slow-working, rusty music box, bumping and creaking out it’s unique, and fantastic melody. There just hasn’t been anything quite like this movie at all. It’s so endearing.

First Cow Movie Walkthrough

As the movie opens, we watch as a hiker discovers the skeletons of two men, buried in the mud, lying side by side. Then the movie jumps backwards to 1820, and Otis “Cookie” Figowitz, who is a low-key, traveling cook for a number crass fur trappers. Then one night, Cookie discovers King-Lu, a Chinese immigrant, in the woods who is running from some Russian men. After one of King-Lu’s friends was killed, he apparently killed one of the Russians by shooting him in the neck. The next day, King-Lu runs off across the river. Well, the two reunite a couple days later, and Cookie tells King-Lu about the first cow to arrive in the area. (Thus the name.) So the two decide to steal some of the cow’s milk and begin selling cakes at the nearby outpost.

They immediately begin selling out of their ‘secret ingredient cakes.’ Long lines form. And people want to know about how they are made, but Lu tells anyone who asks that it is an ancient Chinese secret. Soon the “Chief Factor” asks the men to reserve an entire batch for him. Which, the Chief Factor greatly enjoys. After, Cookie is asked to bake a clafoutis for the Chief Factor for a meeting he will be having soon with a Native American chief. While at the meeting, the Chief Factor offers tea with cream to the captain. (You see, the Chief Factor is the one who owns the cow that the two are stealing the milk from.) Well, he comments that his cow, though a good breed, is producing very little milk. And he even takes them all to meet the cow… which recognizes the two, and nuzzles Cookie. Which, was a really alarming moment for Cookie.

They both agree for “just one more batch” – and the audience immediately knows where this is going to go. Nowhere good. So that night, when they are with the cow, stealing the milk, they are discovered. The Chief Factor at first thinks they are being attacked, but then realizes that Cookie and Lu are stealing milk from the cow. The Chief and his men find Cookie by a cliff over a river. Lu jumps, and Cookie tries his hand at hiding in the nearby bushes. Thankfully, Cookie avoids capture, but when he goes to leave, he falls down a hill and hits his head, knocking himself out. He wakes to find himself, a hunted man, in a shack of a Native American.

At the same time, Lu gets a guy to canoe him downstream to get away. And, after a while, he returns to the shack, in the hopes of getting the money from the tree where he and Cookie had hidden it. And when Cookie regains his strength, he heads back to the shack and the cow, which is now gated in. He’s then followed by one of the Chief Factor’s men. Lu and Cookie find each other again at the shack and Lu wants to get the first boat going south. But Cookie, he’s not doing well. His head injury seems to be getting worse and he’s really having a hard time keeping up. Laying down, Lu joins him, completely unaware that they are both being tracked.

Wait How Did First Cow End Again?

Alright, not to be offensive. But. If you didn’t put two and two together, and figure out what happens right after the movie ends… I got nothing for you. None. Zero. But I guess I’ll spell it out for the slower audience members among us.

Cookie is hurt. Lu doesn’t want to leave him behind. So the two lay down together. Chief Factor’s man was carrying a gun. He obviously must have stumbled upon the two of them, who had been stealing his boss’s cow’s milk the entire movie. Right before Lu laid down, he looked at the loot they had earned from the stolen milk. And he wonders, almost out loud, why they had done it all. If it was actually worth it. Puts the money bag behind his head, and falls asleep. And it’s pretty clear that the gunman shot and killed them both, and took the money. Right? I mean, that makes sense… doesn’t it? If Lu had been injured as well, we could just assume that the two men independently died of their wounds. But Lu wasn’t injured at all.

Personal Thoughts on First Cow

I adored the world building here. The simplicity of it all. And yet how totally enveloping it all was. It was a simple story, but completely enrapturing. The acting was really compelling. The cinematography was so fantastic. Loved the screen ratio, and the consistent film grain in the print. I really have to say I adored everything about this little film. It was super small, but nailed the story with authenticity throughout. I really can’t say enough good things about this film. Maybe the only thing I would like to see changed in the film? That would be Lu and Cookie not dying… and to just watch their story continue all the way to San Francisco. Watch them open a hotel, and leverage the cash they came upon. Sure, that’s a terrible moral to the story. But, I just loved watching these two do their thing. Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed it even half as much as I did. Man, I enjoyed this little period piece. I can’t stop saying that can I?? Gah.

Are you looking for other movies like this one? Revenant? That doesn’t seem quite right. They are both period pieces, for sure. Maybe it’s more like Leave No Trace? That doesn’t seem right either. The cadence of it was more like First Reformed. Or maybe The Wind. I give up trying. I can’t peg this movie… not even a little bit. But all four of those definitely cluster around First Cow anyway. Try ’em out and tell me how far off I am.

Edited by: CY