VOD film review: The County
James R | On 23, May 2020
Director: Grímur Hákonarson
Cast: Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann
Watch The County online in the UK: BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Grímur Hákonarson brought a documentary-like realism to his weather-beaten 2016 drama Rams. Now, he’s back with another dispatch from the bleak but beautiful landscape of Iceland, and The County blends the harsh resilience of its farming community with a winning rebellious streak.
The film follows Inga, a dairy farmer who, along with her husband, has largely embraced modern technology to keep producing milk. But when she realises just how in debt their farm is, the financial pressures start to rise; we soon discover that everything they buy and everything they sell goes through The Cooperative, the company that has formed a web of local farms, ostensibly for their benefit. But with that membership comes climbing costs for supplies, resulting in something closer to a racket than a support network.
Tired of this all-powerful exploitation, she decides to stand up against the corruption, turning to social media to find others to join her cause. The result is a thoughtful study of capitalist monopolies and commercial dependency (Hákonarson has first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing farmers), but laced with darkly comic moments and fist-pumping gestures of independence – beneath the hardships lies a stirring underdog drama, which, in its best moments, is more uplifting than its understated, dour surface might suggest. There’s beauty here, from the low-key opening shot in which Inga, with a patient determination, handles the birth of a calf, to, in a particularly memorable scene, the wonderful sight of a tractor spraying milk all over a company office.