Just a Farmer (2024)


Just a Farmer Review

The devastating emotional backlash of an inexplicable suicide by a young farmer is explored with great care and attention to detail in Just A Farmer, a beautifully realised rural drama that never lets its currency dilute the impact of the tragedy on a family and small country town.

There’s nothing overtly wrong with sheep farmer Alec (Joel Jackson) as he works his property and raises two young kids with loving wife Alison (Leila Mcdougall). He jokes with them on the way to school, mucks around with them at dinner time.

But something is troubling him deeply business matters he isn’t sharing with Alison, heavy-drinking father Owen (Robert Taylor) half joking but not really ribbing him about not spending much time hanging out with the boys.

So when she finds his lifeless body later that day, it’s an immense shock. Unfathomable. Incomprehensible. She doesn’t understand, nor does Owen. The truth is kept from the kids to help them deal with their grief, but they can tell by the state of the house that their devastated mum has lost her way and is drowning in sorrow.

She still has to run a debt-laden farm, needs favours done on vital machinery repairs; has got city sister Kathryn (Susan Prior) coming down for support and some much-needed perspective; cops some sympathy from locals though certain women who revel in prurient gossip about the suicide elicit a brief, sharp public outburst.

If Mcdougall has limited acting experience her only other IMDB credit being comedy short Some Are Clingers which she also wrote and directed she hides it extremely well: her performance as a woman confronted by what must feel like a multi-headed nightmare is gentle, heartening, moving and entirely believable.

A producer on the film, Mcdougall also receives screenplay credit. If what we see on screen accurately reflects what was put down on page, she has done a tremendous, award-worthy job.

Rendered with great understatement by Simon Lyndon a workhorse actor probably best known for his unforgettable turn as Jimmy Jimmy Loughnan in Chopper Just A Farmer’s storytelling is muscular and supple, full-bodied and round, rich in detail and nuance.

There isn’t a question mark raised during the first act that isn’t answered by the third act; there doesn’t appear to be any issue regarding foreshadowing or emotional logic or through lines or narrative consistency that wasn’t nutted out thoroughly before cameras rolled.

That’s just a theory, mind based solely on the fact of how bloody relieved this viewer was to watch an Australian movie that didn’t feel like it had been shot off the back of a script that was several drafts short of an elephant stamp.

The story is complemented no end by Gavin Head’s deceptively matter of fact cinematography. He brings a docu-drama feel when outside among the elements but maintains naturalistic intimacy for those one on one moments.

This film starts and ends with captions about the number of farmer suicides in Australia, making it seem like an activist film titled Just a Farmer. It’s not. It’s a humanist film, one that wisely buries its concerns in a well-made, deeplyfelt story rather than using narrative as a delivery system for an agenda. There are no egregious examples of research shoehorned into the dialogue always a dead giveaway and the term “mental health” only comes up once.

So is this beautiful film doomed to vanish into the same whirlpool of obscurity that has swallowed so many other fine Australian films? Sadly, that seems likely. Just a Farmer will probably become yet another good local movie that no one hears about until it opens with next to no publicity at one or two cinemas before disappearing without trace. I hope I’m wrong.

At the Astor on Friday March 15, at the premiere screening I attended, Mcdougall said in a Q&A afterwards how glad she was that it was going to be showing at “about 100” cinemas across the country, she had called regional venues herself to talk them into booking it.

You have to admire such persistence, but you’d think by now a film like Just a Farmer would have been given more of a chance. Good on Palace for giving it any kind of berth in its schedule.

To belabour an oft-made point: if Just a Farmer had been foreign and required subtitles, you suspect it might already have found itself easier access to wider distribution through cinema networks around Australia.

Watch Just a Farmer Review For Free On Gomovies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top