Rates: * * * *
Why Did I Watch It? Recommended by fatiekitz.
Approaching middle age, and tired of their lives, John and Molly Chester drop out and take up residence on a chunk of land outside LA. Their dream is to turn it into a self sustaining eco farm, and this doco charts their ups and downs.
And it all starts with a stray dog; the seed for these new lives on the land is planted when the couple adopt a pet, who acts out in their apartment, and needs more space. It is funny how people’s lives can turn on the slightest random chance (a theme to which the film returns). The yearning for something different was there anyway, but it needed a catalyst.
It is also no accident that a dog is the trigger for the story, as this film is at its best when it focusses on the animals. While the style and presentation is straightforward, there is some genuine wonder to be had seeing pigs and sheep and dogs and chickens up close. These everyday farm animals have a lot of personality, and the film allows you to live and breathe alongside them for a time, and get to know them. It is very intimate. There is a wonderful moment when a sad sack pig rediscovers its zest for life, and I knew as I clapped deleriously and yelled at the TV that this film had sucked me right in.
There is also some great, and nicely shot, footage of the wilder animals that also live on and near the farm; owls and bird of prey, snakes, many insects and butterflies, the snail infestation that threatens the farm’s orchid (who knew this was a thing?). John Chester was a wildlife photographer in his previous life, and it shows.
While the story is interesting, and has some mildly pointed notes about idealistic tree changers with unrealistic ideas, ultimately this is a film that thrives on its emotions. As time passes and the farm develops, as people and animals come and go, as problems are solved and new ones crop up, as a wild coyote goes from a sworn enemy to an ally, you can feel the world turn on its axis; you would have to have a heart of stone not be drawn into this world.
You really root for these people, and enjoy their good moments when they arrive. And the animals! I mentioned those, I think. The animals in this movie RULE.
A lovely, simple film, and a perfect one for our troubled times. Ready to move to the countryside immediately.