Movie Review: ‘PETER AND THE FARM’ – a vivid character study

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Preston Barta // Editor

PETER AND THE FARM
Not rated, 91 min.
Director: Tony Stone
Cast: Peter Dunning

To call PETER AND THE FARM a documentary seems ill-defined. While it chronicles the year in the life of a Vermont farmer, what makes this film greater than how its plot reads on paper is its subject, Peter Dunning, and how filmmaker Tony Stone (SEVERED WAYS: THE NORSE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA) shares his story.

After the film’s oddly compelling opening shot from the perspective of a car’s hood as it drives down a winding country road, we are introduced to Peter, a farmer who’s initially is presented as a nearly 70 year old man with a big white beard who’s determined and works hard. Soon, we learn of Peter’s pain and his psychological issues through the stories he shares and the harsh conditions he faces.

There’s a poetic way in which Peter reveals his past and an organic way in which Stone captures it. Never does it feel as though Stone is prying information out of him. Everything comes out naturally through some sort of action or event, whether it’s working with a saw to learn of how Peter lost his hand or observing drawings to learn how Peter thinks and operates.

PETER AND THE FARM may not be the easiest of watches for the casual filmgoer – especially those who are sensitive to see what happens on an actual farm – but to anyone who is fascinated by tales of truth, this film will highly engage you.

Through this intense character study we don’t simply observe Peter through his everyday challenges, we participate. As an audience, it’s our job to fill in the gaps with whatever we deem fit. This structure elevates the material beyond what it so easily could have been a sad sob story, but Stone makes it a story of candor without rose-tinted glasses or a Hollywood makeover.

PETER AND THE FARM opens this weekend in limited release, but is available on various digital formats.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.