Director: John Chester
I think I’ve come to the conclusion that bad documentaries don’t get theatrical releases. I’ve seen four documentaries since starting this site and most of them have contended for best film of the year, and it looks like The Biggest Little Farm will join that elite company. Having only seen farms in passing on the highway, I never knew just how difficult it is to maintain a farm like the Chester’s and I have a huge amount of respect for everything they’ve done with their farm. Graphically detailed and incredibly personal, The Biggest Little Farm shows a world that maybe few have been exposed to, but that all will appreciate after watching this movie.
The film follows John and Molly Chester, a couple living in Los Angeles living with their dog Todd in a cramped apartment. When Todd’s behavior causes them to get evicted, John and Molly decide to live out their dream of owning a self-sustaining farm and purchase the 200-acre Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, California. While their dream starts off with high hopes and optimism, they quickly realize the level of work that is required of them to maintain this farm and that their could become a nightmare in a matter of months. From an outsider perspective, farming should be the one job that humans have down to an artform considering we’ve been doing it almost as long as humans have been on the planet. The Biggest Little Farm shows that even though the main principles of farming haven’t changed much, the impact of climate change and a shift towards single-crop farms continuously change the foundation on which farming was established and present a new series of problems for John and Molly. I think John and Molly’s dream is one that many people would love to have, but few have the work ethic to turn into a reality. If you gave me the option to move to a farm where all of my food was grown locally and I got to play with farm animals all day, I’d probably move there today. The cold reality is that nature has its own plan for a farm like the Chester’s and doesn’t care what they want. This is really where the film comes into its own, because it vividly shows us a world that most of us will never see. Animals kill other animals and fruit gets infected with what we consider to be pests, but these are everyday occurrences in nature and nature doesn’t care what your dreams are. When a wolf is hungry and sees a house full of chickens, it’s going to hunt its next meal and doesn’t care if you need their eggs to sell at the farmer’s market. The movie doesn’t try to hide the animal corpses or rotting fruit that some might find disgusting, because that would shelter the reality of the Chester’s situation. The thing that makes the Chester’s story so inspirational is they recognize that all these animals, even the pests and predators, have a place in nature and it’s up to John and Molly to find a way to coexist with these animals. It would be very easy for John to shoot wolves or spray pesticides all over his crops, but that goes against his philosophy and also goes against what nature intended. This is what cements The Biggest Little Farm as one of the best documentaries in recent years, the fact that the film can establish a philosophy, stick to it, and show others that it is possible for others to live this life. Combine all of these elements with the fact that John has a background in the film industry and isn’t just a guy that picked up a camera while on a farm and you have a film that is as technically pleasing as it is from its story.
Overall, The Biggest Little Farm is a film I hope picks up traction when awards season rolls around. There are many documentaries that people should see because they’re fun to watch or document a person in a way never seen before, but The Biggest Little Farm is a movie people need to see, especially when we consider the issues we are facing with climate change. If the Chester’s dream can become a reality, there’s no stopping others from pursuing the same route and creating a world where humans and animals can truly coexist in nature.
Overall Score: 8.5/10