First Cow

First Cow ★★★★

the first word that come to mind when considering director kelly reichardt’s splendid new frontier drama first cow is nice. It is a gentle, unhurried story about a pair of mostly decent people whose loftiest ambition is to carve out a modestly comfortable niche for themselves by touting life’s simple pleasures. this makes first cow something of an outlier in reichardt’s work.

One of the primary delights of the movie is its quiet, sensitive depiction of a harmonious male friendship, one lived at an unhurried tempo that befits the film’s frontier setting. watching as cookie and king lu ease into their mellow side-by-side existence in the verdant oregon wilds – without ever verbally negotiating the logistical or emotional contours of that relationship – is a life-affirming pleasure. likewise, there’s something enviable and charming about the way that the men’s yin-and-yang personalities swirl together so smoothly, never giving rise to the sort of interpersonal conflict that is the typical basis for cinematic drama. king lu’s restless ambition sometimes nudges cookie to move quicker and take bigger chances, but the latter man never responds to his friend’s prodding with anything but his usual good-natured thoughtfulness.

first cow may serve as the perfect example of the kind of art director reichardt creates; emotional, historical and personal stories about relationships. it may also be looked upon as one of the director’s finest works when her stunning career is completed.