The County

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The County
"Hákonarson's woman against corporate Mafia premise is solid enough but The County never manages to generate the emotional intensity that the feuding brothers brought to his previous film."

Grímur Hákonarson finds more trouble brewing down on the farm in his follow-up to the Cannes Un Certain Regard-winning Rams. More of a low-key straight forward drama than his black comedy-inflected hit, The County tracks what happens to farmer Inga (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir) after the unexpected death of her husband Reynir (Hinrik Ólafsson).

Suddenly in control of their farm, which was scraping by even with two of them working it, she finds herself locking horns with the local co-op after discovering the company has been strong-arming those who don't like its elevated prices in a move that cuts close to home.

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Hákonarson's woman against corporate Mafia premise is solid enough but The County never manages to generate the emotional intensity that the feuding brothers brought to his previous film, perhaps because the bad guy, co-op chief Eyjólfur (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) gets less screentime than he might - although this does stop the film slipping into mainstream feel-good formula. These reservations also don't take away from Egilsdóttir's steely central performance as a woman who seems as though she might be just holding it together at the start, but taps into increasing amounts of energy as she becomes determined not to be cowed by the corporation putting the squeeze on her neighbours. She joins legions of quietly determined unlikely heroines, from Spoor to Aquarius to Three Billboards.

Like most films from Iceland, there's also a strong sense of place and community, from the flat cool light to the open landscape that suggests the need to pull together in order to thrive and prosper but also the ease with which the isolation can be weaponised against someone when it suits. Hákonarson cares about farming and its changing practices and goes out of his way to show the energy required to stay in business in the modern world. There are also some enjoyably quirky asides - not least a robo cow-pat hoover going about its business, calves rushing for milk - that give the film a distinctive sensibility.

Reviewed on: 25 May 2020
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The County packshot
A middle-aged dairy farmer rebels against the all powerful local co-operative.


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