[Sundance 2022] THE COW WHO SANG A SONG INTO THE FUTURE -- A Profound Character Study with an Environmentalist Message
Review by Sean Boelman
Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic competition is always a great place to find budding voices in international filmmaking, and The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future director Francisca Alegria is one of the greatest discoveries of this year’s festival. This is definitely an idiosyncratic film, but it thrives in its ambition.
The movie follows a woman who returns to her family’s farm for a family emergency when, in the wake of a local environmental disaster, her long-deceased mother suddenly and mysteriously returns. It’s a premise that is undeniably far-fetched, but Alegria doesn’t lean too hard into the genre elements, instead focusing more on the family drama and the human side of things.
There is almost a hypnotic feel to the film, brought about both by its visuals and its tone. Of course, there is a dreamlike feel to the magical realism in the movie, and this is a majority of the film’s atmosphere. It’s fanciful in a way that contrasts nicely with the forlorn subject matter that the movie explores.
One of the most interesting parts of the film is its context. There is a very clear and powerful environmentalist message here, but Alegria manages to not make it feel heavy-handed. The social commentary of the movie is integrated very smoothly thanks to how fundamentally connected it is to the premise.
The film also does a great job of exploring its subplots and supporting characters. The movie explores how each of the members of the family is affected by these strange occurrences, and it really creates an emotional investment with each of them involved. The film tackles a lot of issues, but not overwhelmingly so.
Leonor Varela does an extraordinary job in her leading role, with a turn that is fittingly quiet and subtle. It’s a movie that really thrives in the interiority of its characters, and Varela emphasizes that quality quite well. Mía Maestro is also exceptional here, breathing an unexpected and refreshing life into her character.
This is also just a gorgeous film to look at. The cinematography by Inti Briones is stunning. The movie takes these plot elements that are typically associated with eco-horror and uses them to create something a bit more understated and human, changing the execution to go along with it to create something more alluring than disturbing.
The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is a wonderful film, and while there are a lot of moving parts, they come together harmoniously. Francisca Alegria is clearly very talented, and it will be exciting to see what she does in the future.
The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is screening at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which runs virtually January 20-30.