Film Reviews / Indie Film

The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future review: Dir. Francisca Alegria [2023]

“…everything is happening. But what are you referring to?”

There’s something quite compelling about a pure ethereal journey on film, and Francisca Alegria’s The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future (La vaca que cantó una canción hacia el future) certainly fits that bracket for the Chilean director in this curiously mysterious and compelling debut feature.

Written by Alegria, alongside Manuela Infante and Fernanda Urrejola, The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future, is a multi-hyphenated drama that captures you from the opening shots, and holds that fascination throughout. Beginning with score-driven visuals and siren-like voices singing songs about death, we see fish gasping for air on the banks of a river, and then a woman emerges from the river, with a crash helmet and coughing up water. It’s strikingly captured considering the moment but how did this woman get there? Counteracting the dead fish of a moment before, it’s arresting imagery and you’re immediately keen to learn what’s going on.

It’s evident from what comes next that something spiritual, or unusual, is in play and we learn that this woman is Magdalena (Mía Maestro), and she’s essentially been dead for years. This is particularly proven after her visit to her husband, Enrique (Alfredo Castro), who sees her, collapses and has a heart attack. But what has he seen, it can’t be Magdalena, surely? Because of his hospital visit, Enrique’s daughter Cecilia (Leonor Varela) has to return home to look after him. She brings her two children but there are secrets at play, and a painful history to revisit, which is heightened when Cecilia also sees her deceased mother and then more begins to unravel.

In truth, I can’t spoil the journey from here on in because Alegria’s film – and all the performances – has stuck with me for a long time. So much of the story fascinates with only the initial segment possibly reflecting a common scene, where Cecilia asks her trans daughter Tomas (Enzo Ferrada Rosati) to wear male clothes before they return home, it’s a sad moment but beyond there we delve into growth, change and curiously approached positive differences that push beyond the physical self, and takes us into the ether of life itself.  

I particularly enjoyed the questions offered and then thrown intriguingly into the air of the narrative, but they’re answered and you’ll even examine your own role in certain situations – thus placing you in the moment. I never felt lost even when I wasn’t completely sure what was happening, and I refer briefly to a chorused song that lingers in and around a field of cows, in the lingering light of the day and night. It’s welcomingly psychedelically and mesmeric. And beyond the visceral, all the portrayals and performances are fuelled with emotion and honesty – it’s subtle eco-messaging because it’s set within the dysfunctions of a family, while also offering a tender mediation of our relationship with the earth and each other.

The film wonderfully scored by Pierre Desprats, smartly edited by Andrea Chignoli and Carlos Ruiz-Tagle with cinematography from Inti Briones – and at some points I even wondered if the whole story is set dawn or sunrise for longer than normal, maybe this being a reflection of the journey of the characters – almost frozen in time while their issues unravel. If you’ve seen Nikyatu Jusu’s instinctive Nanny (and you should), or even Natalie Erika James’ Relic (also reviewed here), with a touch of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson ventures, then you’ll be in the right place for the stylistics of The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future.  

Earthy and ethereal with stunning cinematography and powerful performances. This is a visceral journey that takes you inside a deeper understanding within life and rebirth of our environment and each other, and it’s pleasurably strange and captivating.

The Cow Who Sung a Song into the Future opens in UK cinemas on 24th March from Sovereign Films


One thought on “The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future review: Dir. Francisca Alegria [2023]

  1. Pingback: New sci-fi drama The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future delves into the consequences of environmental neglect – out in UK cinemas 24th March | critical popcorn

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