Directed by Andrea Arnold, Cow is a documentary film about the life of two dairy cows at a farm in Kent, England. The film is an exploration into the lives of these two cows and what they do and provide as well as showcase the world they live in as it is told in a cinema verite style. The result is an exhilarating and riveting film from Andrea Arnold.
Set on the dairy farm area in Kent, England, the film follows the life of a cow who would give birth to two calves on different occasions in the course of a year with a focus on the dairy cow Luma as she spends what might be the final year of her life and one of her calves who is starting a life of her own. It is a film that showcases a year in the life of Luma as it begins with the birth of her first calf as well as how a calf develops and then be sent to a nearby farm with other calves while Luma endures her own struggles in providing milk with other cows. A lot of it takes place in different seasons where Andrea Arnold follows the lives of these two cows with Luma being its main protagonist with farmers doing what they can to check on her health and everything else. Arnold does showcases the farmers from afar as they do a lot to ensure the well-being of the cows and calves where there are moments as a farmer checks on Luma and see if she can pump milk while one of them is careful in putting a machine on its udders as there is a humanity to the way Arnold showcases farmers doing what is right.
With the aid of cinematographers Magda Kowalczyk and Ponvishal Chidambaranathan, Arnold keeps a lot of the visual elements straightforward as there are moments where everything is gorgeous such as a scene of one of Luma’s calves roaming free in the grass and eating some of the grass as she is playing with other calves. Much of Arnold’s direction emphasizes on hand-held cameras to capture everything as it is happening while there are some odd moments as Arnold and her crew are forced to watch such as Luma being mounted by a male cow who would impregnate her leading to the birth of a second calf. Editors Rebecca Lloyd, Jacob Schulsinger, and Nicolas Chaudeurge would keep much of the editing straightforward where shots go on for minutes as Arnold wanted to showcase everything but also knowing where to put the camera from afar. Especially during the film’s final moments as what is presented is shocking but it’s not surprising for the fact that there is a fate for cows yet Arnold showcases that the farmers at least do it with a sense of dignity no matter how horrible a cow’s fate can be.
Sound designers Maria Carolina Santana Caraballo-Gramcko and Raphael Sohier, with sound editor Nicolas Becker, do amazing work with the sound in capturing everything that is happening as the layers of sound in the cows’ moos as it adds a unique atmosphere to the film. Music supervisor Simon Astall does fantastic work in cultivating a lot of the music that is played on location as there’s always music played in the farm as it’s usually something that is being aired from the BBC as it includes music from Billie Eilish with Khalid, Soak, Charlotte Day Wilson, Kali Uchis with Tyler the Creator and Bootsy Collins, Mabel, Angel Olsen, Jorja Smith with Kali Uchis, Olivia Dean, Kelsey Lu, Woom, and the Pogues with Kirsty MacColl while the lone non-diegetic music used in the film is from Garbage.
Cow is a tremendous film from Andrea Arnold. Featuring gorgeous imagery, an evocative soundtrack, and a riveting look into the life of a cow and one of her calves. The film is an unconventional yet daring documentary film that explores the life of a cow in all of its fascinating stages as well as a calf coming into her own development while being unaware of what will happen to her mother. In the end, Cow is a sensational film from Andrea Arnold.
Andrea Arnold Films: Red Road - Fish Tank - Wuthering Heights - American Honey - (Bird (2024 film)) - The Auteurs #31: Andrea Arnold
© thevoid99 2023