First Cow & Never Rarely Sometimes Always
First Cow (2020) & Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) 2-in-1 review
Released just this past April after a premiering at Sundance Film Festival in January, Never Rarely Sometimes Always s a drama following a girl and her cousin who travel to New York City to have an abortion for an unplanned pregnancy. The drama was written and directed by Eliza Hittman and released to widespread critical acclaim despite a limited release.
Released just this past July after premiering at Telluride Film Festival last August, First Cow follows a frontier cook and a Chinese immigrant who collaborate to make their fortune by stealing milk from a cow to bake and sell goods. The drama was written and directed by Kelly Reichardt and based on the novel “The Half-Life” by Jonathan Raymond, who also co-wrote the screenplay. And yes, being an independent festival drama, First Cow was released to widespread critical acclaim.
So why am I lumping these two films together? The stories don’t exactly have that much in common do they? Well despite a gap in runtime and setting, I think two early 2020 festival dramas focusing on two people trying to do one thing with a larger complex issue surrounding it is pretty similar… Plus I watched both of them and thoughts the exact same thing, so I’m saving some time here too…
Anyway, yeah you know you best. If either of these films sounded interesting, congratulations! Your a film snob. Now I like plenty of slow indie dramas. These two though- ugh they just didn’t do it for me. Maybe if First Cow were the runtime of Never Rarely Sometimes Always it would have been a more compelling watch. But honestly, both of these movies are slow and straightforward, so if that’s not your thing, yeah maybe check out a few different 2020 movies.
As I just mentioned, the story in both films is fairly straight-forward, and they unfold exactly like you’d expect. My largest complaint about both was the lack of depth and discussion brought to the forefront of the films. Maybe they are trying to be subtle or realistic and I get that- but it doesn’t mean I want to just watch a girl and her cousin wander around New York waiting for an abortion or two frontier guys make cookies hoping they don’t get caught. I don’t find either of these stories that interesting to be honest. I’d probably find the more personal drama more interesting in Never Rarely if there were an attempt at some more character development. So by default of it being a frontier film, yeah First Cow is slightly more interesting. I guess?
Of course both of these arguably boring movies are at least well-made, and I can only take so many points away for feeling exactly what these movies wanted me to feel. Never Rarely is largely comprised of close-ups of Sidney Flanigan, but since her performance is great, there’s never a wasted shot. This introduced the film as the more personal of the two, choosing to tell us to be thinking about the girl Autumn and her situation, which does seem realistically portrayed.
First Cow on the other hand feels like a dry but compelling look at the American dream, opting for wider shots that capture the scene, not the people. Granted the performances from John Magaro and Orion Lee are both pretty good, enough to sell the moral dilemma at least. However there’s a strange framing device in First Cow that I think worked against it, adding to the already bloated runtime.
So in the end, I thought both of these movies were honestly a little boring. I typically don’t mind small-scale slow-burn indie dramas like this. Heck I own Paterson (2016) and that film is just about a bus driver and nothing else. But somewhere between the lack of music to the lack of depth in both I lost interest. So again, if you are the type who can look at two guys making cookies and call it a cinematic masterpiece, more power to you! I thought these were kinda fine. 6/10 for both First Cow and Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
So First Cow? Did you see it? What about Never Rarely Sometimes Always? Which did you like better? And what is your favorite indie drama? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and want to read more like it, we have a bunch more from 2020 coming soon!
-review by Ryan Prince