When the trailer for First Cow played in my local movie theater a few months ago, I swore it was one of those fake movie trailers that theaters play in order to remind people to turn off their cell phones — an M&M was moments away from showing up on the screen to scold me into Airplane Mode. Instead, there was Eve. She's the first cow of First Cow, and after watching the film, I will forever be apologizing for doubting her debut.
But can you blame me? The movie is about a concept so simple it's hard to believe it's a two-hour story: the first-ever cow to arrive in the Oregon Territory in the 1820s. At that time, the settlers didn't have much access to luxury. While the cow belongs to one of the wealthier immigrants, two less fortunate characters, Cookie (John Magaro) and King Lu (Orion Lee), team up to steal some of the cow's milk at night to make and sell biscuits. That's the whole plot.
But when you watch it, you realize a story like this — one about cows and milk and biscuits and class with nice music twanging in the background — is exactly the kind of soothing content we need in this hectic 2020. At the very least, we needed to meet Eve.
“She loves people more than just about anything else, other than apples," trainer Lauren Henry, who scouted Eve for the film, told GQ. "If you're not paying attention to her, she's running around and bucking and waving her head, trying to get your attention so that you'll come in and play with her."
Relatable! But she isn't just a good cow, she's also a sophisticated actress. Hours of training went in to even simple things. For instance, her first scene in the film required her to stand still on a raft as it glides down a river. For an animal that likely doesn't understand what's happening, keeping still for take after take while on a body of water is likely no small feat. To prepare, she'd practice standing on a raft for a bit at a time, staying still in increasing increments, until she was a pro.
"She absolutely loved floating down the river," Henry continued. "She had her little sleepy cow eyes and chewed her cud and just hung out in the sun with the waves lulling her to sleep."
That's kind of what the experience of watching First Cow is like. There were moments when I was waiting for the scene to take a dramatic turn or for things to escalate beyond udders, but the story is much more about the nuance of the situation rather than the drama (but don't worry, restless movie-watchers, there is a moment when things get tense). But mostly, in a world when things are rapidly escalating to newer, faster versions of themselves, First Cow is a reminder that the simple things in life deserve to have their stories told, too.
Eve, a working mother, is already bringing this ethos to a new generation.
As an inspiration to women everywhere, she's not letting that hold her back from her career.
"She's here and demanding her next role,” Henry said.
First Cow is in theaters now.