Freeland

Freeland

2021, NR, 80 min. Directed by Mario Furloni, Kate McLean. Starring Krisha Fairchild, Lily Gladstone, Frank Mosley, Cameron James Matthews, John Craven, George Psarras.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 15, 2021

With its untold acres of old-growth redwoods, cloud-piercing mountain ranges, and lush greenery, California’s Humboldt County can still take on the aura of things primeval. It’s a picture-postcard perfect snapshot of natural splendor, especially back in the forests where many of the locals cultivate and tend to Cali’s No. 1 cash crop, cannabis. It’s a multibillion dollar industry that, until relatively recently, operated off the grid and on the DL. The clandestine nature of the business model fostered symbiotic relationships and mutual trust between growers, buyers, and distributors, which in turn attracted idealistic boomers/hippies. In the seemingly unspoiled northern woodlands they saw a utopian future fueled by illegal marijuana farming just waiting to blossom. That idyllic dream outlasted the “Summer of Love” by nearly 50 years – until pot was legalized, threatening an entire horticultural counterculture.

That’s the background to Furloni and McLean’s quietly captivating film, but it’s the sublime and understated performance by Krisha Fairchild (Krisha, Waves) as the aging pot farmer Devi Adler that elevates Freeland past its potential as a tone poem cliche into a far more arresting portrait of the old versus the new and beyond.

In the movie’s opening, we find Devi, a crinkle-eyed, white-haired holdover from the dawning of the Age of Aquarius (and by her own admission, free love orgies) being served with a “Note to Vacate Nuisance" letter from the county. And snap! Just like, that her single source of income is in major jeopardy. It would cost her thousands she doesn’t have to transition from what’s basically a black market ma-and-pa business to a state-certified seller of pot, complete with license and dues. Her crew of far younger pickers, led by Josh (the excellent Mosley of David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), are by extension being trampled by The Man: If Devi can’t sell, and her buyers won’t buy because of the new laws, what’s a fading flower child to do? Hope the longtime help stays on to pick and dry the crop despite her dwindling-to-nonexistent income?

Freeland tackles, in a very laid-back yet ominous series of events, the co-opting of underground economies by wealthy elites and governments, the total obliteration of the lifestyle nurtured by Devi and her old running buddy, Ray (Craven), frothing-at-the-mouth capitalism, and the emerging communicative and emotional gaps opening between herself and Josh, who’s open to going legal. In its own way, the film’s message is akin to corporate ’Merica building a Blockbuster video store right next door to a beloved indie video store (and, like those Blockbusters, those new legit growers got pushed out by agribusiness. Happens all the time these days).

Freeland has precious little dialogue, so Fairchild conveys her unspoken inner feelings using only her face and eyes. In this she excels, radiating calm, outrage, despair, and melancholic memories of her and Ray’s heyday in the “big house” at the old commune. Their touching visit to the dusty property only serves to underscore the inevitable now of their sorry situations. Maybe Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard sang it best on their duet single: “It’s all going to pot/ Whether we like it or not/ The best I can tell/ The world’s gone to hell/ And we’re all gonna miss it a lot.”

Available on VOD now.

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READ MORE
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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Freeland, Mario Furloni, Kate McLean, Krisha Fairchild, Lily Gladstone, Frank Mosley, Cameron James Matthews, John Craven, George Psarras

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