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


Preston Barta // Editor

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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.