September 29, 2017
First, a moment of silence for Amy Ryan’s awards campaign that will never happen for her finely calibrated performance in Abundant Acreage Available.
Writer-director Angus MacLachlan knows how to dive deep into the minutia of his everyday characters and make them utterly compelling to watch. He did so with his first feature, Junebug (the movie that made Amy Adams the star she is today), and he does so again with Abundant Acreage Available, a minimalist drama about family and pride and how the two can sometimes work together or clash.
The movie takes place in North Carolina, where Tracy (Amy Ryan) and Jesse (Terry Kinney) have just buried their father. Tracy and Jesse seem to be relatively close but not without their sibling squabbles. Jesse is a religious man, where Tracy doesn’t put much stock in faith. When Jesse wants to bury their father on more spiritual ground, Tracy insists he belongs on the land.
One morning, Tracy and Jesse wake up to find a tent in their backyard,m which prompts Tracy to grab the shotgun and find out who is trespassing on their land. Three men wake from the tent and they better start explaining themselves before Tracy gets any more annoyed. Charles (Steve Coulter), Tom (Francis Guinan) and Hans (Max Gail) are passing through and are familiar with the land and wanted to pay it a visit.
Jesse is immediately welcoming to them but Tracy remains reserved. It doesn’t take long before Jesse starts talking about selling the land to the three men, who are eager to pay. Tracy shuts down any talk of doing such because the house and land belongs to them and should stay in their family.
Abundant Acreage Available unfolds quietly and without much flair but its stripped-down simplicity makes it all the more powerful. The movie runs a scant 80 minutes and packs so much of these characters into such a short amount of time. By the end we know who these people are, what they long for and what they regret.
Much of the movie’s power lies within Ryan’s performance. The once Oscar-nominated actress (Gone Baby Gone) is a performer that might be easy to underestimate or take for granted. In the last few years, she has appeared in several “wife” or “mom” roles, which don’t give her the room to do what she is capable of doing. Here, she finally has a leading role and delivers a stunning performance of the world-weary Tracy. She carries her resentment in her eyes and on her shoulders and conveys so much with the simplest look.
It’s a shame when a movie this small won’t be recognized accordingly but Abundant Acreage Available is one of the year’s best movies. No matter how the year ends, Amy Ryan has a Best Actress nomination in my book.
Abundant Acreage Availble (2017) Directed by Angus MacLachlan. Written by Angus MacLachlan. Starring Amy Ryan, Terry Kinney, Max Gail, Francis Guinan and Steve Coulter