Directed by Andrea Arnold, Cow chronicles the daily life of Luma. Luma is a dairy cow who reveals in one scene after another that animals have feelings too.
Without any introduction whatsoever, the film begins awkwardly with an in-your-face calf birth. Luma, who is branded “11/29”, is followed by cameras everywhere she goes, documenting her every step and reaction. Intelligent enough to follow a daily routine, she joins the other cows and takes part in a milking session. After rejoining its mother, the new calf is separated, tagged on the ear, and taken away to an isolated enclosure. After their separation, you can see how visibly shaken she is that her calf was taken away without any way to find her.
For a film with a runtime of over 90 minutes, sitting in silence watching a cow isn’t the most thrilling way to spend an afternoon. The option to go speechless wasn’t a great idea. With the exception of your occasional low-grade conversation in the background, the bulk of the focus rests solely on Luma and the farm.
If animals aren’t a big deal to you, then this film isn’t for you. One can only take so much “moo” in one sitting before the insanity starts to set in. If animals are your thing, then this documentary will probably fill you with rage. For the average viewer, you might even consider veganism. It’s easy to see how this can be viewed from a handful of perspectives.
Luma’s distress in this film calls greed into question. Is using animals for personal desires more important than how they’re treated? Is milk really worth all this? Any human mother would be at her wits-end if her children were taken from her. So should we just turn the other cheek because these are animals?
I give Cow a 6.5 out of 10. Wasn’t my cup of tea, but again, the animal-obsessed will find it thought-provoking. Don’t get me wrong, there were a handful of times where you could feel Luma’s distress and emotions. The process of milking, preventing horns from growing, and a cow’s ultimate end is enough to make you change your diet. It’s an interesting doc, but it’s not life-changing.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Kate Kirkwood. An IFC Films release.