First Cow Parent Guide
If you're not in the mood for a slow-paced art film, however beautifully shot it might be, you're going to lose your mind waiting for something to happen.
Parent Movie Review
Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lee) met under unusual circumstances – namely, with Cookie finding King-Lu stumbling naked through the woods to avoid some murderous Russians. Briefly separated, the two soon find one another again in the nearby fort. Hard up for cash, and without conventional employment opportunities on the frontier, the friends hatch a plan: a rich local, Chief Factor (Toby Jones), has bought the first cow in the area. If Cookie and King-Lu can steal the cow’s milk in the night, before the morning milking, they can get some of the only baked goods in the area to market. But only if they don’t get caught…
The first half of the movie is, I would guess, around 80% beautiful shots of tired-looking men foraging in the woods. Now, as that kind of thing goes, it’s very well done, and with the soothing soundtrack it makes for very peaceful viewing. The upside to this is that the relationship between the two main characters develops slowly and naturally, which pays off in the rest of the movie. The downside is that remarkably little happens in that first hour, and if you’re not in the mood for a slow-paced art film, you’re going to lose your mind waiting for anything to happen.
Perhaps describing First Cow as slow-paced is unfair. If anything, the film is thoughtful and careful. It rushes nothing, allowing the plot to unfold in its own time. While this does mean it can feel slow, it also means that it feels richer. The cinematography is given the time to explore the area, making the wild frontier of Oregon a little more familiar. This also gives it a more historically authentic atmosphere – even though the dialogue is a touch too modern, the setting is thoughtful and lived-in, rather than the usual modern trend of treating the past as horrific and dirty. In First Cow, it’s cozy and dirty. Much improved.
With that said, I think you can imagine how well this would go over with younger audiences. The film is largely appropriate for older kids and teens, with a very mild PG-13 rating, but I doubt that most kids are going to be too thrilled to sit through the long nature scenes just to get to a couple of friends stealing milk in the middle of the night. I think it’s a good fit for the right adult audience, one which is prepared to wait and keep waiting for a touching story about life on the fringes, friendship, and the wonders of fried dough.Directed by Kelly Reichardt. Starring John Magaro, Oeion Lee, and René Auberjonois. Running time: 121 minutes. Theatrical release March 6, 2020. Updated October 2, 2020
Watch the trailer for First Cow
Rating & Content Info
Why is First Cow rated PG-13? First Cow is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief strong language.
Violence: A man is punched in the face in the course of a barfight. An individual falls and injures their head.
Sexual Content: A man is shown naked, although little beyond his back and shoulders is seen. There is a moment of brief buttock nudity.
Profanity: There is one use of scatological profanity, and occasional uses of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are shown drinking alcohol.
Page last updated October 2, 2020
First Cow Parents' Guide
Fort Tillicum represents the frontier of American expansion westward. What parts of this depiction are accurate? Which parts are not? There are many First Nations people living in and around the Fort – what are their experiences like in the film? Are those mirrored by reality? What was the cost of westward expansion in North America? The film is set in 1820: how is this part of Oregon going to change in the next fifty years?