By Gregory Crofton
“Cow” is painful to watch for a number of reasons.
The documentary is shot in the dry style of cinéma vérité or direct cinema, which means there’s no narrator or any interviews. It’s just the camera and the subject, in this case a cow named ‘Luma’ that lives on a dairy farm in England.
It was directed by Andrea Arnold (American Honey, Fish Tank) and it is her first documentary, but her previous features all contained nonfiction elements.
“Cow” exposes the darker sides of the dairy industry by following Luma over a period of years. We watch her give birth, gets purposely separated from her offspring, only then to get inseminated so she can give birth again. We hear her “Mooo” in protest. We see the sadness in her eyes. We watch the cows have fun when they finally get let out to pasture.
Maybe the most difficult part of watching this film (other than enduring the real life pop radio soundtrack) is contemplating the possibility that this dairy farm is likely one of the better run in the industry.
The staff is kind to Luma and clearly likes Luma, still there’s no real way to put a positive spin on how a dairy farm must operate if it wants to turn a profit.
But we need milk for our coffee, right? That’s why this film is painful to watch. We can’t shut down dairy farms, can we?
You can rent “Cow” here or watch the trailer below.