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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

In the Name of the Land (M) - 104 minutes

It’s a truism to say that life for a farmer is tough and unrelenting, but this French drama based upon fact shows just how hard it can be.

Returning from a stint in Wyoming – where he learnt the ropes – to the Mayenne district of France in the late ‘70s, 25-year-old Pierre Jarjeau (Guillaume Canet) is full of hope and promise.

He is head over heels in love with Claire (Veerle Baetens) and about to formally take over and run the farm operated by his father Jacques (Rufus) and his father’s father before him.

Pierre pays handsomely for it, but his dad retains ownership of the land, which he leases to Pierre.

Then we cut to two decades later. The year is 1996 and Pierre and his now wife, Claire, have had two children – an older son and a daughter.

Pierre runs goats, not sheep – like Jacques used to – and crops.

But times are tough. Prices have fallen and paying bills has become a major issue.

Clare does the books and also has a side job as an accountant.

A visit to the bank results in Pierre adding chickens to goats and crops.

And that means creating a major new state of the art facility to house tens of thousands of the chooks – at considerable additional expense.

Pierre’s father doesn’t like what he is seeing and says so.

The pair don’t see eye to eye.

Pierre works hard, but obstacle after obstacle stands in his way.

His son Thomas (Anthony Bajon), who is studying agricultural engineering, is always willing to lend a helping hand.

And Pierre is also assisted by farm hand Mehdi (Samir Guesmi).

Then a major calamity changes everything and Pierre is no longer the man he used to be.

I greatly appreciated the gritty realism of what I was seeing, even if it isn’t pretty to watch what unfolds.

Edouard Bergeon, who wrote the piece with Emmanuel Courcol and Bruno Ulmer, and who also directs, has crafted something special.

The performances are riveting, led by Canet and Baetens.

His metamorphosis is compelling, her channelling of stoicism special.

Those around them play their parts well too. Their conviction aids our belief and investment.

What undoubtedly elevates In the Name of the Land is the superb cinematography of Eric Dumont.

His wide shots, in particular, are nothing short of breathtaking.

A fine score by Thomas Dappelo underpins the film.

So, there is much to like and admire here, in a work that moves to the dark side.

Rated M, In the Name of the Land scores an 8 out of 10.


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