Kelly Reichardt once again trains her perceptive and patient eye on the Pacific Northwest, this time evoking an authentically hardscrabble early nineteenth century way of life.
A taciturn loner and skilled cook (John Magaro) has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) also seeking his fortune; soon the two collaborate on a successful business, although its longevity is reliant upon the clandestine participation of a nearby wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow.
From this simple premise Reichardt constructs an interrogation of foundational Americana that recalls her earlier triumph OLD JOY in its sensitive depiction of male friendship, yet is driven by a mounting suspense all its own. Reichardt again shows her distinct talent for depicting the peculiar rhythms of daily living and ability to capture the immense, unsettling quietude of rural America.
"The pleasures of FIRST COW are deep and substantial. Reichardt’s style is direct and restrained, sometimes to the point of austerity, but at her best — in OLD JOY, WENDY AND LUCY and in this, perhaps her finest feature so far — she finds a rich poetic resonance in plain, unshowy images and words." A.O. Scott. A New York Times Critic's Pick!