Discovering new worlds and conquering new territories is for the mighty and the privileged. That’s how Otis Figowitz, otherwise known as Cookie, sees things. But what about those who don’t fit that mold? What do they do?
Born in Maryland and left to fend for himself at a young age, Cookie packed up and headed for Oregon, following a group of fur trappers out West. His first job? Cooking for the hunters who had no time to waste on self-nourishment. But Cookie, a more reflective sort of guy, soon tired of men who only pursued opportunities in this new world with vigor and violence.
One day, in an effort to free himself from the men’s endless, savage rantings, Cookie heads down to the stream to catch fish. And there he finds not only his dinner, but a runaway Chinese man named King Lu.
A well-traveled innovator, King Lu and Cookie quickly form a bond with one common goal: making a living in a new land. But the only way they know to do this is to utilize Cookie’s skill as a baker. And that requires risking their lives to steal milk from the most coveted possession around: the region’s lone cow.
Cookie and King Lu form a friendship and bond as the two work to survive—and even thrive in—the harsh realities of their relatively untamed new environment.
Both men have character traits that aren’t immediately prized on the Western frontier. King Lu is intelligent, well-traveled and extremely resourceful. Cookie is gentle (something that’s not seen as a strength by the surrounding men), helpful, kind and innovative.
Although King Lu urges Cookie to steal milk from a cow, Cookie wrestles with making the right decision.
King Lu tells Cookie that locals believe a certain spirit morphed into a stone.
A group of men joke about the kind of attractive women they may find as they explore new lands.
A man is shown shirtless.
King Lu tells Cookie he is on the run from a violent group of Russian men who gutted someone he knew. In self-defense, King Lu says that he shot one of the men.
Cookie tells King Lu that his mother and father both died when he was young, and that he was left to fend for himself. Cookie falls down a hill and is knocked unconscious.
Men make multiple death threats and get into a few fist fights. An arrogant captain brags about the many lashings he gave to sailors. Men catch and kill wild animals for sustenance. A woman uncovers two skeletons buried beneath the ground.
God’s name is misused once paired with “d–mit.” Words and phrases such as “d–n,” “h—,” “d–mit,” “son of a b–ch,” “fool” and “stupid” are heard one or twice each.
Men drink hard liquor and beer, as well as smoke cigars.
King Lu tells Cookie that “anything worth doing is dangerous”— a saying that definitely applies to the two men repeatedly stealing milk from a cow that isn’t theirs.
If you’re searching for an indie flick that takes a look into the past and the harsh realities that faced men and women moving to new territories, First Cow could be the film for you. Though the West is often romanticized in film, First Cow helps us see how savage and difficult it was—especially for folks like King Lu and Cookie, who definitely didn’t fit the rough-and-tumble stereotype of men exploring the West.
Along the way, First Cow tells the tale of this unlikely pair. Despite their significant differences, the two of them quickly forge a friendship based on necessity and the desire to live a better life. They make a good team—even if that “teamwork” involves pilfering milk from the only cow around.
First Cow feels like an anti-action movie. It’s a slow-paced study in character development and friendship. A bit of mild violence and language turn up, just enough to warrant a PG-13 rating. But ultimately, this slow-moving, big-hearted story illustrates how we can find brotherhood in the most unlikely places.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).