First Cow

Kelly Reichardt is a household name for moviegoers who worship thoughtful, gritty films about the American frontier. Though only her 2010 drama Meek’s Cutoff was actually set in a period we’d think of as frontier times, many of Reichardt’s other films, like Wendy and Lucy and Certain Women, revolve around moments of freedom and opportunity mixed with exposure and danger. Through Reichardt’s lens, undiscovered wilderness is simultaneously fruitful and treacherous. First Cow continues this cinematic conversation, dropping in on Cookie (John Magaro), an aimless frontiersman/cook for hire. The first part of the film is a mix of forage porn and manly intimidation, as Cookie (who, apologies to Magaro, never stops looking like a bearded Shia LaBeouf) nears the end of a contract with some threatening beaver trappers. He spends long stretches away from them, mushroom hunting in the woods, where Reichart and cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt craft scenes that are simultaneously uneventful and strangely rewarding—each chanterelle breaks with a satisfying crunch.

by Suzette Smith
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Kelly Reichardt
John Magaro, Alia Shawkat, Orion Lee