Andrea Arnold’s first feature documentary, an immersive portrait of a year in the life of a dairy cow, is a riveting experience.
Luma is one of hundreds of cows living on a dairy farm. Across the course of a year we see her daily routine, along with her giving birth (twice) and moving along a trajectory that generations of cows have done before and many will do after. But Arnold’s film steers clear of any moral or ethical assessment of modern farm life. It merely observes, in close up and at eye level, Luma’s experience of the world.
Arnold has always played with form in her work, from her early Oscar-winning short Wasp through to her acclaimed features Red Road, Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights and American Honey. Cow is no less bold. Like Viktor Kossakovskiy’s recent Gunda, it is by turns playful and illuminating. It is knowing in its anthropomorphism – humorously evoking human values in the way shots are cut together. And yet, as it progresses, the film becomes a moving meditation on the nature of existence and asks us to ponder how we interact with the world around us.