ABUNDANT ACREAGE AVAILABLE possesses an endearing lead performance from Amy Ryan, but is too plodding, loquacious and overladen with themes to allow her excellent performance to breathe.
Tracy, who has lived on her family’s tobacco farm throughout her life, and her brother Jesse (Terry Kinney) have barely finished burying her father, when they find three middle aged men camping on their property. The three men are brothers, children of the previous owners of the farm, who have returned after 50 years to reclaim the land in their family’s name.
The farm forms the only setting of the film, save for interior shots of the home, and although a slice of rural Americana is refreshing little is done to exhibit the apparent attachment Tracy has to this landscape. A tracking shot of an argument in the home, the camera situated beyond the walls is the first piece of real visual flair. There is a dusty elegance to Angus MacLachlan’s direction, but a vegetative verbosity in his script.
Amy Ryan delivers far more than the script deserves, her range off reactions to the brothers’ encroachment is convincingly portrayed. She gracefully swings between outrage, understanding, attraction and defensiveness. Terry Kinney is given the more meaty dialogue but also the one most laden with philosophical musings (his character espousing a newly reborn Christianity off the back of alcoholic travails earlier in life). It is never terribly clear what his character wants from the situation, nor does it come across as ambivalence or indecision. It is simply hopelessly overwritten, with his dialogue scenes feeling like they are expanding to fill the abundant acreage of the title. A character even says “I’m rambling” at the conclusion of one.
It is unfortunate Amy Ryan’s terrific and subtle performance is wasted in this manner. She is given little to bounce off until one of the brothers, Charles (Steve Coulter), is given more to say and do later in the film. It is also unfortunate MacLachlan’s own script undermines the gentle and expansive – if rather homogenous – visuals.
ABUNDANT ACREAGE AVAILABLE strives for a thematic universality it never really reaches, never filling the ample room it gives itself to illustrate them. Rather than abundant acreage, there are only sparse stretches.