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Country (1984)

September. 29,1984
| Drama

Jewell and Gil are farmers. They seem to be working against the odds, producing no financial surplus. Gil has lost hope of ever becoming prosperous, but Jewell decides to fight for her family.


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Thematically comparable to "The Grapes Of Wrath", "Country" pits a modern Iowa farm family against an imperial American government, via oppressive FHA agency bureaucrats, who intend to execute farm foreclosures on rural residents who can't pay back their loans.The plot focuses on details of the family's everyday life, and the grief the FHA causes. Characters spend a lot of time at the dinner table talking and eating. Outdoor shots feature a typical Midwest farm setting. Absence of background music in some segments, detailed production design, and ambient sound effects all combine to convey a heightened sense of realism. Overall acting trends well above average. Jessica Lange is quite good as the mother who holds the family together and takes action against the FHA.On the other hand, the setting and the characters tend to be stereotypical and shallow, except perhaps for the father. Good editing keeps the plot moving. Even so, I don't think this film would fly today. It's too quiet, too introspective, too slow for modern, especially urban, viewers. Which is unfortunate, because the film speaks to ordinary people regardless of whether they live in cities or on farms.Politically, I'm afraid that not a lot has changed in America since this film was released in 1984. Imperial institutions still oppress and tyrannize. And films like "Country", "The Grapes Of Wrath", and others, effectively document this tragic historical reality.

Steve Skafte

In 1984, there were three films produced about farm life in the midwest. The first, and best film, "Places in the Heart" showcased an older form of life, a world where the farmer's only real enemy was nature; human or mother. The second two - "The River" and this film, "Country" - focused on the modern (for 1984, that is) struggles of farming the land. Of those two films, "Country" is the better. The real curious problem with "The River" is that it failed to show the average person's life. It felt more like a disaster movie, and the farmer seemed more like a poor, pathetic loser than a noble man trying to stay alive.The main thing that holds it all together is Richard Pearce, a director who makes personal, legitimate films as opposed to big events and images. Five years earlier, he covered similar ground in his first film, "Heartland". I'm a firm believer that great cinematography can make a great film. If something is worth looking at, the first steps are already covered. It's not that David M. Walsh is necessarily shooting in a mindblowing, new way, but Pearce gives him wonderful things to photograph. There's so much time given to just let things happen. The final scene is a perfect example. The wordless, drawn-out connection of two humans. It seems to go forever. This film lets you watch at the most perfect, crucial moments.The actors. What can I say about them? They're utterly convincing, and that's got to be the main and almighty concern for any film-goer. Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, and Wilford Brimley are all more human than some of the bigger stars that might have been picked to act in such a film. They still have that sense of not being watched, at least enough so that they can live a character untouched. Lange, who I've seen in several films, never quite impressed me like she does here. Brimley, the glorious character actor who made a career in the 1980s playing 'that guy' in quiet dramas, is very much welcome here. In fact, I can't ever remember an instance when I regretted seeing him on film. He adds needed personality to the mix. The children (played by Theresa Graham and Levi Knebel) don't ever feel less than perfectly real.There are a lot of parts to this film, passages and images. In fact, that's what most makes it all work. If one thought feels out of place, humanity strikes again like lightning. Yes, there is the obligatory Big Statement scene, where the music swells and all poor farmers rise up against the Man. And yes, it is almost that bad. But even though it might make your eyes roll, there's far too much real life and human subtlety on display in "Country" for such a tired scene to crush it.Richard Pearce directs true, quiet dramas. If you want more of what you felt watching this, seek out these other films by him - Threshold (1981), The Long Walk Home (1990), A Family Thing (1996).


Strong film set in USA. Good acting in film based on trouble in USA farming in early 1980s. Main star is Jessica Lange. Good acting from Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Wilfred Brimley(grandfather), the children playing church going family. A family trying keep farm from controlled by loan company. The family have problem in USA winter making profit, debt to company. The father(Sam Shepard) feels frustrated. He studies the farms books. His frustration turns to his family at times, company official in company office and a bar. Loan company try to auction off equipment on farm. The film shows the detail of working on farm with tractors and working on land. A tornado causes some damage to tractor.


A sobering look at farms in crisis. Shows how farmers tried to hide herds from government lenders, the human cost of financial strain, the hopelessness shown by families who have reached the end of their financial rope. Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange anchor a strong and capable cast that effectively portrays the plight of U.S. farmers in the mid-1980s. Cinematography well done, with Kansas and Nebraska location shooting. Auction scene is heart-wrenching, as a farm held by generations of one family is auctioned to satisfy debtors. To watch the bidders converge on the equipment lined up for sale is a powerful image, repeated many times throughout the Plains states during that period.