Review by Camden Ferrell
The County is an Icelandic movie that played at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival as well as several other festivals. This movie comes from writer/director Grímur Hákonarson. It may be slow at times, but this is an inspiring story that’s full of timely themes today of oppression and corruption.
Inga is a recently widowed dairy farmer. Disenchanted with the local Co-Op who practically controls and abuses their local farming industry, she decides to rebel against the system and live life on her own terms. Obviously, this is not met without obstacles, and she must fight for her beliefs. This is a simple yet resonant story that has broad-reaching thematic potential.
Hákonarson’s screenplay is well done. It is solemn in its treatment of its protagonist, and it revels in its natural yet inspired dialogue. By the end, it does feel like certain ideas and themes could have been developed and explored more though. Regardless, it’s a solid script that provides a great foundation for the film.
One of the most surprising aspects of this film is how accomplished its leading performance is. Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir leads the film as Inga, and she does a great job at playing a character so steadfast in her pursuit of liberation yet one so vulnerable due to the loss of her husband. It’s a really unique and impressive blend of emotions that really helps elevate the film in some of its slower moments.
This is a tale as old as time. Raging against an unjust system is far from original in cinema, but this movie reframes it through the context of dairy farming which is a unique perspective. The movie is full of scenes of cows and milk production, and it serves as an interesting backdrop for the story. The diary industry isn’t seen very often, but its struggles are similar to the struggles of many working-class industries in today’s world.
While the film has a lot of heart working for it, it can still fall victim to some sluggish moments and meandering scenes. The movie stumbles in its pace at times, and it does undermine the other great things about the film. The cinematography is occasionally quite enriching, and it is a slow burn that pays off fairly well by the end.
Despite its flaws, it’s a relatable story about one woman who does not want to be controlled and treated unfairly. It’s empowering to see such a resolute middle-aged woman lead the charge for change in her community. It sends a strong and inspiring message to the people of the world even if the film doesn’t particularly amaze the viewer.
The County is a quiet and earnest character study of a woman trying to take control of her life. It has some really great themes and acting, but it can often lose its narrative footing throughout.
The County will be in theaters and virtual cinemas April 30.