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THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM gets 7.5/10 A Matter of Life and Death


Directed by John Chester

Featuring John Chester and Molly Chester

7.5/10

The circle of life is explored in this new documentary, though it’s not quite as cute or endearing as The Lion King (1994). The realities of life feeding on life, along with all its complications, are unravelled as John and Molly Chester give up city life and move just outside Los Angeles to start a farm, starting with just their dog, Todd, and bringing in the likes of ducks, goats, chickens, and a pig named Emma.

Documenting their struggles and achievements as they turn a 200 acre property of solid soil into a habitable farm for animals to live in and for fruit to grow in, the couple are helped by an assortment of eager, aspiring farmers they met online, as well as Alan York, acting as a learned sage and giving this couple a wealth of horticultural knowledge and supporting hands. They manage to get the farm looking a lot more green, flourishing with plant-life and animals, this transformation captured in all sorts of stunning drone shots. But from year to year, the Chesters experience a variety of new problems, most unfortunately involving animals being killed, oftentimes by intruding coyotes.

This is where the documentary digs deep and confrontingly in the nature of life feeding on life, across wildlife, poultry, birds, insects, gastropods, and microorganisms. It’s certainly a fact of life, but The Biggest Little Farm puts this truth harrowingly up close and in detail, showing as many dead animals as it does births of new animals.

There’s a sense of dread always gnawing at the film, amplified by the beginning that hints at the end, showing their complete farm paradise in the midst of one of California’s recent infamous firestorms. There’s equal amounts of optimism, deathly set-backs, and acknowledgements of nature’s way, superbly filmed by Chester, whose job is as a cameraperson for nature documentaries, and he puts his skills to good use, capturing many incredible Planet Earth-esque moments, showing in slo-mo macro photography the intimate details of life on the farm.

The Biggest Little Farm gets into the gritty details of farm life, exposing the kind of psychology and understanding of its nature required to run such a cultivation project. This documentary can be emotionally taxing because of the harsh realities it has the obligation to put on display, but this makes it an all the more an honest, raw and ultimately illuminating look at what it takes to be an amateur farmer.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

The Biggest Little Farm plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, December 23 & Tuesday, December 24 & Thursday, 26 – Sunday, 29 December, 8pm.

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