First Cow is a Beautiful Showcase of Friendship and the Human Triumph of Companionship
Written by Mackenzie Stolp
Set in frontier America, First Cow is the story of two men striving for the ‘American Dream’. A story that has been showing in cinema in such a vast variety of ways which only showcase how outlandish and unachievable the ideal of the American Dream is for most people. The concept of making one’s own way, finding wealth and certain success in American is a reality for only the privileged few. Even those who will never achieve the richness and ‘success’ that comes from fulfilling the ‘American Dream’ still strive towards it and praise those who do, even if it’s impossible for themselves.
Our two main characters of Cookie and King-Lu find a small glimpse of their American Dream fulfilled in the milk of the first cow to arrive at their frontier town. The cow is the possession of a wealthy landowner and so the two men steal milk from the cow during the night-time to use in their business endeavours: creating biscuits (or scones here in Australia) to sell to the people living within their town. Their business venture is smart and successful, but both Cookie and King-Lu know they are playing a dangerous game that could be lethal if they were to be caught.
The real beauty of this film is the natural world in which it is set. One of our earliest scenes in the film follows Cookie as he picks mushrooms for the group he is travelling with. It is a brilliant and subtle way to showcase the natural scenery filled with ferns and greenery – but to also showcase the hardships of living of searching for food and resources. The beautiful nature of the film is both its source of beauty and hardship – a difficult terrain that bears little food or mercy. Everyone in this film is battling with nature to find their richness that is followed by the American Dream but nature in return is incredibly unwilling.
First Cow is so beautiful in its simplicity. The storyline feels natural, and there is no obvious agenda-pushing. In many areas where this film could become political, it instead shows friendship really has no bounds, and a mutual appreciation for life and nature is an incredible thing to bond over and that ultimately – the ‘American Dream’ serves no one. Greed and envy are very clearly displayed throughout the film, but at its core friendship is victorious.
“We’ll go soon. I’ve got you” have truly got to be the most beautiful final words of any film and are a perfect expression of the friendship that Cookie and King-Lu have, it is everlasting. If you lose any interest throughout the duration of this film just promise me you will watch it until the ending, otherwise you will regret it.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!