Andrea Arnold has already released short films titled Dog and Wasp, both of which turned out to focus on the hardships faced by ordinary humans, their animal namesakes being little more than metaphor. Not so with her latest project and first documentary, the upcoming Cow, the brand new trailer for which we’re delighted to exclusively share with you below.
Viewers of Arnold’s film will be pleased to find that it amply delivers on the promise of its title, made up of nothing but footage of cows doing cow activities: grazing, birthing calves, dying. The director used a lightweight camera to get up close and personal with her bovine stars, following them into their pens for emotive close-ups that almost make these beautiful creatures seem human.
The trailer, set to the haunting yet apropos strains of ‘Milk’ by American alternative rock institution Garbage, shows us the life-giving wonder of a lactating heifer. In her milk, she doesn’t just provide the human race with a refreshing way to keep our calcium levels up, but sustains her offspring with nourishment from within her body, a deep bond captured here with intense intimacy.
Like this year’s Gunda, another documentary eschewing voiceover narration in its stark depiction of the barnyard and its inhabitants, texture is a crucial part of the text. As vital as the cow herself are the particulars of her surroundings – the sound of hay crunching under-hoof, the bleary ambient light of an overcast English sky, the nearly perceptible scent of fresh manure.
In her first-look review of Cow from its Cannes Film Festival premiere, our critic Sophie Monks Kaufman praised the empathy Arnold extends to the subjects that most passersby wouldn’t give a second look: “Strangely, for a film with a logline that seems to be low on dramatic stakes, Cow feels like an Andrea Arnold picture. There is a visceral appreciation for her helpless subjects that flows out of the film like spilled milk.”
Cow comes to cinemas in the UK on 14 January, and then goes online via MUBI on 11 February. A date for the US has yet to be set.
Published 21 Dec 2021
Andrea Arnold successfully adapts her social realist mode to minutely chronicle the life of an average dairy cow.
By Beth Piket
The British director’s 2009 drama offers a child’s perspective of life below the poverty line.