FIRST COW*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens in the present day. A woman (Alia Shawkat) is walking her dog through the park. The dog runs free and starts digging into the dirt. The woman tells the dog to stop until she sees what has been partially dug up. She digs deeper and uncovers two adult skeletons laying side-by-side.
We jump back to 1820 in Oregon. Otis “Cookie” Figowitz (John Magaro) is a cook for a group of men hired by a trapping company. He struggles to find sufficient ingredients for meals, and he is belittled by the other men in the company. They are all brash and obnoxious while Cookie is more soft-spoken.
That night, Cookie goes scavenging when he comes across a lost man named King-Lu (Orion Lee). He says he is on the run from some Russian men after killing one of them. The two talk for a bit, and Lu says he is hungry. Cookie tells him he is a cook, and he provides him with some food. Seeing Lu as a friend, Cookie invites him to sleep in his tent discreetly for the night.
In the morning, the fur trappers are set to head to Fort Tillicum to collect their wages. One of the men taunts and antagonizes Cookie before he is fought off by Lu, and he and Cookie split up.
After getting their money, Cookie separates from the other trappers and wanders by himself, trying to catch fish before going to a bar at the Fort. There, he overhears a man, Lloyd (Ewen Bremner), talking about the first milk cow on the territory being brought over, which belongs to a wealthy Englishman called Chief Factor (Toby Jones). The cow came with its mate and calf, but they both died on the journey over. Moments later, a drunk patron starts heckling a larger man that’s with Lloyd, leading to a fight that is taken outside. The other patrons besides Cookie go to watch the fight, while another man asks him to watch his baby. Cookie reluctantly does so and calms the baby down before seeing that Lu is also in the bar. The two men drink and leave the bar (and the baby).
Cookie and Lu walk and scavenge whatever they can. They discuss their work, travels, and dreams. They walk to Lu’s shack and spend time on the land gathering what they can. Cookie says he would like to open a hotel or a bakery in San Francisco. Cookie later comes across Chief Factor’s cow left out in the open. After telling Lu about it, they find the cow overnight in an attempt to get milk from it to make some biscuits that Cookie has a recipe for. Cookie goes to do the deed while Lu keeps a lookout. Cookie talks to the cow as he milks her, expressing sorrow for her mate and calf.
The men bring the milk back and proceed to make a batter for the biscuits, or “oily cakes”. Served with a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon, people from around the Fort quickly begin to line up and pay for them. Cookie and Lu proceed to make a decent profit off of the oily cakes over a few days by continuing to milk the cow before Lu starts to feel that they need something new or people will just get tired of the cakes. Cookie also worries about the risks of stealing the milk. A boy named Thomas (Jared Kowalski) who watches the cow is denied a cake after a man cuts in line ahead of him, and he looks on at the men scornfully. They are later asked to reserve a cake for Chief Factor, who pays the two a visit and is impressed by the treat. He requests that they join him at his estate to bake blueberry clafoutis for an upcoming meeting he has. While making the dessert, Lu tells Cookie he worries Factor may recognize the taste of the cow’s milk in the pastry.
Cookie and Lu go to Factor’s estate with the pastry where they meet a captain (Scott Shepherd) and a Native American chief, Totillicum (Gary Farmer). The men present the dessert, which is met with high praise. Factor offers the men tea with cream, noting that the cow has been producing less milk lately, which makes Cookie and Lu nervous. Factor takes the men out to see the cow, who recognizes Cookie and nuzzles him.
The men go home and discuss ending their business since Cookie thinks the operation has become too risky, but Lu wants to sell one last batch of oily cakes before they get away so they can come up with a little more money. They head to the cow for more milk, but Lu spots a man stepping out, so he tries to signal Cookie but ends up falling from the tree when the branch snaps. Cookie runs to tend to him but ends up knocking over the milk before they flee. Factor’s men come out to investigate and find the spilled milk. He realizes that Cookie and Lu are responsible and he orders his men to go kill them. The men evade Factor’s goons but get separated. Cookie ends up falling down a hill and suffers a head injury that knocks him out.
The next day, Lu meets a Native American man who guides him down the river in a canoe. He goes back to the shack but finds Factor’s men there before him, so he hides until they leave, but he gets away with the money he stashed. Meanwhile, Cookie wakes up in the home of a couple who treated his wound. After spending another night there, he goes to look for Lu. While getting water, he is spotted by Thomas, who is armed and begins to follow him. Cookie goes by the cow to see that she is surrounded by a fence. He then goes by the shack and comes across Lu, and the two embrace.
The two continue their walk, unaware that Thomas is still following them. However, Cookie’s head injury starts to slow him down, before he decides he needs to lie down to rest. Lu considers taking the money and leaving Cookie, but he chooses to lay down beside his friend. They lay in the same place where the skeletons will later be found.
In the early 1800's in Oregon, Otis "Cookie" Figowitz works as a cook for a group of fur trappers, earning him little respect. He meets a man on the run named King-Lu, who has killed a man. Cookie feeds and shelters Lu after they form a quick friendship.
After Cookie departs from the fur trappers, he and Lu reunite at Fort Tillicum and scavenge for what they can until they learn that the first milk cow on the territory has arrived for a wealthy Englishman called Chief Factor. Cookie and Lu begin to secretly milk the cow at night to gather milk for a biscuit recipe ("oily cakes"). The pastries become popular, even garnering Factor's attention. He thinks it's delicious and invites the men to his estate to make another dessert. After an encounter with the cow on Factor's property, Cookie and Lu think their operation has become too risky and they try to gather milk for one last batch. The plan goes awry when they are nearly spotted, but Factor figures out that they are the thieves, and he orders his men to kill them.
Cookie and Lu evade capture but get separated. Cookie suffers a head injury after falling down a hill and is taken in by a couple for a couple of nights. He reunites with Lu at his shack after Lu finds the money. Cookie's head injury starts to slow him down before he becomes too weak to continue traveling. Although Lu considers getting away with the money, he lays down with his friend. Their skeletons are later found by a woman in the present day.