THE COUNTY – Review by Jennifer Merin

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The County is a timely small town drama in which one women has the courage and conviction to stand up against administrative corruption in her small close-knit Icelandic farm community and make a change for its social and economic betterment. For decades, Inga (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir) has loyally supported, worked and fought against bankruptcy with her husband Reynir (Hinrik Ólafsson) on the dairy farm his family has owned for generations. When Reynir dies suddenly in a trucking accident, Inga learns about his secret dealings with the county Co-op, the trading establishment through which all members of the farming community sell their milk and buy all of their provisions and supplies. Her outrage at what she’s discovered prompts her to challenge the Co-op’s monopoly and authoritarian influence over decision-making in the community.

Iceland, country that has a strong record on women’s rights, boasts the world’s first democratically elected female president (Vigdís Finnbogadóttir from 1980 to 1996). Inga’s political stand is never labeled feminist per se, but her woman’s perspective is clearly at the core of her courage, and it is truly refreshing to see how natural it is for her farming community peers — men and women — to seriously consider her point of view and her fight without reference to her gender.

Following his highly acclaimed Rams (2015, Cannes Un Certain Regard-winner), Icelandic writer/director Grímur Hákonarson applies his masterful storytelling skills to crafting an exquisitely nuanced film in which narrative exposition is conveyed cinematically through beautifully framed images that capture pivotal intimate moments in close up within the wider context of Iceland’s magnificent landscape, with compelling sound design that utilizes natural sound to elevate emotion, and brilliant editing that sets pace and pov, and galvanizing performances delivered with superbly authenticity.

The theme and story are strongly feminist and The County is not to be missed.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).