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Tribeca 2017: "Abundant Acreage Available"

Nathaniel R reporting from the Tribeca Film Festival

It's been 10 years since Amy Ryan broke through to "prestigious character actress" fame, whilst nabbing herself an Oscar nomination and critical hosannas for Gone Baby Gone (2017). In the years intervening, it's been fairly obvious that Hollywood didn't know what to do with her thereafter, often casting her in less than challenging roles as sympathetic wives (think Win Win or Bridge of Spies) or ex-wives (think Birdman). But she's finally no one's wife in the humble drama Abundant Acreage Available, and that lack of 'belonging to' is both writer/director Angus Maclachlan's (best known for the screenplay to the wonderful Junebug, 2005) and Ryan's own secret weapon, giving the movie its most appealing frictions...

Amy plays Tracy Ledbetter, one of two newly orphaned adults. She doesn't see eye to eye with her born again big brother Jesse (Terry Kinney) about the next step for the farm they grew up on. The gap between their future plans widens when they wake after burying their father, to find three complete strangers camping on their land. Jesse wants to sell the farm and retire and Tracy, untethered by anything but the farm, announces that she plans to die there. Tensions simmer (though never boil - it's a quiet drama, for better and worse) when the strange trio of old brothers refuse to leave.

The movie's most curious but successful element is a kind of forced match-making between Tracy and the youngest of the visiting brothers (Steve Coulter). Both adults have lived their whole lives serving others and have never appeared to have considered their own needs. Are they attracted to each other? The movie is as tentative as the characters here which leads to two superbly performed beats in Ryan's performance. The first is a moment of self-reflection as Tracy wonders aloud if she's a "cold" woman and then corrects herself with a minor edit "not warm." The second is an entirely internal split second switch from romantic fantasy to platonic sadness. To detail your character so well that we're certain we're watching spontaneous and atypical moments from a character we've only spent an hour with? That's some kind of acting feat.

 The chilly cinematography by Andrew Reed (Land Ho!) augments Ryan's character study with shots of the farm that aren't so much monochromatic (the great bane of modern cinema!) as crispily reluctant to display their color. It's no accident that the film takes place in the last days of fall and the sparse crop-free vistas only accentuate the winter of these modest lives. Tracy's flinty attachment to this place that couldn't look less nurturing if it tried, grants the movie a kind of stubborn solidity that belies its running time (80 minutes) and goes a long way in excusing its otherwise wispy narrative.

Abundant Acreage Available plays Tribeca tonight at 8:45 PM (4/25)


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Reader Comments (8)

This sounds so promising! Amy Ryan is a gem who deserves far more than what's been given her lately.

April 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B

Beautiful analysis of a performance. Go, Amy!!

April 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Writer of Junebug? Sold.

(Somehow I've never seen Gone Baby Gone, but I'll take it on faith that Amy Ryan is really as good as reported.)

April 25, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

lylee -- i personally thought she over did it in Gone Baby Gone but its indisputable that it elevated her career and she got rave reviews for it.

April 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Ryan is great. People forget her work in the office and the wire. She tends to be understated with a lovely screen precede.

April 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Amy Ryan is the most underrated actress working today. Hopefully she can get herself the big career surge it deserves.

April 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJ

She always kills. She's one of our best character actresses. She should have been nominated for Birdman.

April 26, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Loved her since "the Wire", but can they do something about the title of the movie...

April 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLars

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