Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
We all know A24 is just the best. Sometimes their films can feel a bit lengthy, and occasionally (rarely) they have a misstep, but their consistency is what makes them so great. The projects they pick always have me excited. What other studio could make me excited about a movie called First Cow? A skilled cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business. This film is about friendship. There are plenty of thought-provoking themes, but this strange yet satisfying friendship is what stuck out to me the most. We also have some seasoned filmmaking at play here.
First Cow is not a film you can “joy watch” or turn on while you’re doing something in the kitchen. This is one where you have to be locked in. Every ounce of dialogue serves its purpose, but there are plenty of scenes with no dialogue that serve just as important of a role. The cinematography, the aspect ratio, the film grain, and the timely nature of the script all make this film an experience. It may be one that becomes too much for some. The lengthy takes, ongoing scenes, and “dead” periods throughout the film may tune out some more genral audience-goers. Because of the length and pacing, I didn’t quite love it on the level that I had hoped, but it’s still (easily) one of the most well-made films of the year. It may be the most well-shot film of 2020 so far.
It’s a shame because the Academy will most likely overlook it, but every shot feels like a work of art. The intensity is real, but it’s handled with this careful craft that Reichardt so tenderly adds to the film through her outstanding direction. It’s a simple situation, yes, but it gives us almost everything we could have asked for. The (unlikely) bond between these two changes, grows, and adapts throughout the film; it almost becomes dire by the end. Two completely different individuals from different backgrounds get caught up in some interesting situations, and it all spawns from that cow. Only this studio could give us that. I feel as if length and pacing were the major factors keeping it from being top-tier A24, but there is no denying the beauty within First Cow.
🔙The Old Guard