Eye For Film >> Movies >> Abundant Acreage Available (2017) Film Review
Abundant Acreage Available
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
In today’s world we increasingly expect one another’s lives to revolve around careers. Not so long ago, we expected them to revolve around other people. But go back just a little further and the most important relationship in many people’s lives was the one they had with their land – indeed it’s still the norm in many parts of the world, and for some individuals the pull is stronger than it is for others.
Tracy (Amy Ryan) has lived on the family tobacco farm in North Carolina throughout her life. She never gets tired of the way the mist creeps out of the woods in the mornings, blurring the edges of the fields; or the way the evening light turns the sky to gold beyond stubble smoke and bare branches. Naturally she sees it as the proper burial place for her father, who felt the same way. But her brother Jesse (Terry Kinney), who escaped from alcoholism into impassioned Christianity, feels that the old man should have his ashes placed in consecrated ground. It’s the first of a series of disputes that will strain their lifelong bond.
The ostensible plot here revolves around three brothers whose father owned the farm in the past and who have their own bond with the land; they’re growing old and want to buy it back so they can be buried there. For his part, Jesse – who has had Tracy to take care of his worldly interests heretofore – is in favour of simply giving it away. An arrangement is suggested whereby Tracy could marry one of the brothers so that the farm would remain in both families. Her quiet fury at being treated in this manner is etched on her face even as she strains to avoid discussing it, and she is bound to the land in a different way as, in keeping with the early post-conquest history of the region, both are regarded as tradeable assets.
The land is a major player in this otherwise small scale drama and the only thing that really keeps pace with Ryan’s performance. Cast against type, she acquits herself well, showing us a woman who is fuming internally but must carefully control it in order to maintain any power, her legal position seeming to mean little. Direct confrontations are scarce as efforts are made to be civil and, later, there are hints of genuine friendship in spite of everything – but perhaps that’s the effect of a land that, for all its beauty, yields little. Comfort must be found where it can be.
Like its characters, this film seems to be striving for something that it never quite attains. It’s an intermittently charming portrait of a place and a way of life that dominates human destinies but in which those who are tough enough can find real fulfilment.Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2018