This film was previously reviewed in July 2021 as part of our Cannes Film Festival coverage.

Andrea Arnold’s newest film, Cow, documents the daily lives of two cows, Luma and her recently born calf whose birth we witness up close. Arnold focuses on showing what it’s like for them to be treated as a commodity rather than living animals. Unedited takes force us to witness these cows in some brutal situations, being poked and prodded against their will, all while the audience is confronted with the blank looks on their faces – their sounds of anguish being directed right at us, the guilty onlookers.

Rather than have the camera keep a distance during these situations, it always remains nearby, so much so in fact that sometimes the lens gets hit as Luma moves around frantically. Such closeness cultivates an intimacy even though at times it can be an uncomfortable watch. This film is unflinchingly honest in its account of the life of Luma, an animal that is celebrated from its birth solely for what it can provide for man.

The eyes of the two cows are what we observe most of the time, and this emphasis on their eyes looking right into the camera is what makes this film feel so special. It helps to humanise the animals, allowing the audience to feel true empathy for them. We feel as though we get to know these two animals personally over the course of this film, getting attached to them, and this odd emotional bond that Arnold cultivates through the film’s runtime makes the end all the more striking.

Arnold’s Cow is extremely patient; therefore, viewers must be as well. While it’s certainly not an easy film to get on board with due to its wordless documentary style and slow pacing, in the end, it’s a rewarding watch, the final scene of which will remain in your thoughts for days to follow.



DIRECTOR: Andrea Arnold

SYNOPSIS: A close-up portrait of the daily lives of two cows.