Sometimes you know right away when a movie is not for you. And sometimes you’re forced to keep watching that movie and it turns out you were dead wrong.
For the first half hour, The Biggest Little Farm comes across as one of those self-satisfied documentaries that are so ubiquitous, where the filmmaker is on some “quest” of indulgent self-fulfillment. In this case, the maudlin voiceover tells us the director — a cameraman in Los Angeles — and his wife — a chef and food blogger — have a dream to build a farm that works in concert with our natural ecosystem, rather than against it. A noble goal, but also one that’s presented a bit obnoxiously.
They get started working with a sort of farm whisperer who has very unconventional ideas of how the interconnectedness of all things can lead to sustainable farming, and we see the expected fits and starts. Now, I don’t know when the shift happened, but after a while I noticed the voiceover had become more self-aware, and the movie had gone beyond the “crazy dream” approach and proved to be much more philosophical about what we were seeing.
As it goes on, the documentary really does probe the notion of universal interconnection: It shows us the vast global cycle of life and death, and how death is necessary for the existence of life. It made me think about how hard we’ve worked to hold dominion over nature by tearing it down, and then artificially recreating what we’ve destroyed. It shows us that despite our devastation, nature will find a way to repair itself, though we may be long gone by the time it does. And, above all else, it helps us to understand the impermanence of all things. After its rough start, The Biggest Little Farm turns out to be deeply thoughtful about how our world transcends our short-sighted efforts to be in control.
Also, there’s nothing like a couple dozen baby piggies.