Written and Directed by Mario Furloni and Kate McLean.
Starring Krisha Fairchild, Frank Mosley, Lily Gladstone, John Craven, Cameron James Matthews, and Michelle Maxson.
An aging pot farmer finds her world shattered as she races to bring in what could be her final harvest.
At face value, Freeland depicts a series of setbacks from upholding a 30-years-running respected pot farm, mainly marijuana legalization in California alongside new rules and regulations for the properties of yesteryear. Considering the proven and successful owner of the homestead is the elderly Devi (Krisha Fairchild), the film from writers and directors Mario Furloni and Kate McLean (with Alvaro Furloni serving as a story consultant) gradually takes on the form of a character study showing someone out of place in a world full of modern developments and new technology.
This is most effectively realized during a sequence of desperation (Devi is in dire need of a new business associate that is willing to work with a weed grower whose farm is not sanctioned by authorities, even though she has been in the game for decades and has made a communal living situation out of the land during the hippie stoner heydays) at an industry expo. While searching for a new business partner, Devi (much credit to an absorbing, lived-in turn from Krisha Fairchild, aided by shooting on actual pot farms with rich cinematography capturing beautiful land and natural lighting) is overwhelmed and lost, wandering around and observing the advancements of growing pot. Imagine someone that only played Atari that didn’t pay much attention to past generations of gaming, now trying to play something on PlayStation 5. That’s the level of confusion here, as Devi increasingly begins to feel like a stranger in her own vocation.
Of course, capitalism is really to blame here. Devi has buyers; they just don’t want to work with her anymore after receiving a notice to abate. It’s a work blow she immediately tries to fight back against, even when advised things are not going to go her way. Unfazed and determined to push back, Devi scrounges together the cash for a lawyer, digging up hidden stashes of buried money (literally and figuratively from inside household objects). It’s also a nuanced turn from Krisha Fairchild that concerned with how bad news on top of bad news continues to affect Devi as a character. There are shifts in personality and tone that probably wouldn’t work in the hands of lesser filmmakers or talent, such as Krisha Fairchild, capable of nailing authenticity.
Devi is also not a selfish woman and is genuinely concerned about how she will pay her farmhands. She takes pride in never having screwed anyone out of a paycheck throughout her 30-year tenure, assuring that she will be able to figure something out. It’s not long before it’s clear Devi is in over her head searching for a solution but remains sympathetic and compassionate towards the workers she considers her friends. They include college student Mara (Lily Gladstone), who is nervous about how she will pay for the upcoming semester, her longtime friend Ray (John Craven), who decides to pack it up and move elsewhere following the crackdown, and package duo Frank and Casey (Franca Mosley and Cameron James Matthews, respectively), with the former having suggested means of updating the business model for a while now. Devi met the ideas with rejection.
With that in mind, Freeland shifts genres into thriller territory with wonky results considering we never really get a firm grasp of the supporting characters. There’s also more to be explored regarding the past community and the good old days of this routine, especially since one of Devi’s best friends also feels underutilized as a character. At only 80 minutes, there’s also definitely room to expand upon such areas. However, the one constant through all of this is that Krisha Fairchild takes every new development and plot direction as an acting challenge to be crushed. This is an empathetic downfall of both a person and business, with a serviceable study of how that affects someone’s psyche and connection to the modern world. Freeland goes beyond pot-growing and contains universal appeal; it’s something aging people of any industry will, unfortunately, likely face.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com