FIRST COW – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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It’s a simple story about friendship and hope. It’s a gently revisionist Western that literally pushes the clichés of the genre out the door in favor of reconsidering stereotypes of masculinity and reworking the fables of “frontiers.” It’s a softly savage deconstruction of the violence and the ironies of the American dream — of capitalism itself. It’s one of the most astonishing movies I’ve seen this year.

Every frame of First Cow, Kelly Reichardt’s latest masterpiece, oozes caustic contradiction. Warmth and compassion of the immediate moment is constantly overshadowed by a terrible suspense working on multiple levels, and all of that is in turn haunted by the slow burn of injustice on scales unseen by the characters caught up in their lives and in their own slice of history, but quite obvious — and enraging — to us looking in from the future. Continue reading…

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).