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Amphibians in Movies
First Cow (2019)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
First Cow First Cow First Cow
First Cow First Cow First Cow
I watched this because I am a fan of the director, Kelly Reichardt, and her minimalist realistic films about ordinary people. With little action or dialogue the films come off as more realistic that most films. This is one of her best. It's set in the 1900s in the Pacific Northwest when people were beginning to settle in the area which was already occupied by Native Americans.

Only a few minutes into the film we see a live Rough-skinned Newt, a rare appearance by a salamander in a movie, so I got excited, though it's trivial and not of much interest for anyone else. We see a man we don't know alone in a forest foraging for food. (Later we learn that he's a cook for a group of beaver trappers.) He is picking yellow mushrooms off the ground when he sees a newt that is overturned on its back, apparently unable to right itself. We don't know how the newt got overturned or if the man did it accidentally, but he picks up the newt with his glove and turns it back over onto its legs. The newt then starts walking away. Then he reaches down a picks another yellow mushroom. That's the entire newt appearance. It's brief, but the action show us that he's kind to animals and probably a good man. As we learn more about him we see that this first impression is mostly true.

After the wealthy governor of the territory imports the first cow to the region, the mild-mannered, newt-saving cook and his companion secretly sneak out at night and milk the cow to use the milk in baked goods they sell in the market to make some money. Theft by the poor from the rich rarely goes unpunished, especially in a time and place where money buys power and power defines justice, and this is what concerns most of the movie.

The Rough-skinned newt is native to the Pacific Northwest, where the film takes place and was most likely filmed. Location-specific species accuracy is not so common in the movies. It's easy to wonder if the film crew found the newt in the forest and decided to add it to the script. Rough-skinned newts are extremely poisonous and if the man had gotten any of its secretions onto his fingers when he picked it up, then transfered them to the mushroom he immediately picks up with the same hand and puts into his mouth, that could have caused him some discomfort if not illness.