Review: First Cow

 How long can this last?

Otis (John Magaro) has joined a group of trappers out in Oregon. He's a very skilled cook, hence earning the nickname "Cookie" but he's not well liked amongst those men. It's when he stumbles upon a Chinese man, King-Lu (Orion Lee) that he finds true friendship. They go into a business that involves them stealing milk from a rich man's cow to sell baked goods, even though they know this cannot last long.

I've always struggled with director Kelly Reichardt's features, even though I want more than anything to like and support them. The only one I've felt like I truly enjoyed from start to finish was Night Moves. First Cow struggles from some of the same "problems" I have with her other films, it's mundane, many scenes go on for just a beat too long, and the ending was questionable at best. But thankfully, Magaro and Lee are very compelling leads with excellent chemistry together, and that makes the time we spend with them worth it.

There's not a lot of backstory to be found here, but there's enough for us to know why they're where they are, what dreams they have, and plenty to make us care. I spent a fair amount of time worrying for these men because even they acknowledge their "business" can't go on forever. So the film succeeded in that aspect. I cared a lot about them, but ultimately I just wasn't completely satisfied. It's firmly in second place on my Reichardt list, and it was nice to mostly like one of her films again.

Recommended: Yes, if you're a fan.

Grade: B-

Memorable Quote: "I've got you." - King-Lu (Orion Lee)


  1. I have this film on my hard drive as I'm hoping to watch this and Night Moves before the end of the year but I've been inactive in my activities right now. I'm aware of the lack of plot in Reichardt's films but that's one of the reasons why I like her work so much.

    1. Hopefully these work for you. Night Moves is wonderful and has the most plot, IMO.

  2. I'm a bit mixed on Reichardt too but this one really won me over. I really found myself absorbed in the two characters despite there being a lot we never learn. Anxious to see it again closer to the end of the year.

    1. This is definitely one of her most engaging films. I still give Night Moves the edge, but this was good.


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