Icelandic filmmaker Grímur Hákonarson’s The County is an evocative portrait of stoic dairy farmer Inga (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir) as she quietly but forcefully challenges the co-operative that, over the years, has lost sight of its original, idealistic purpose. The co-op, under the leadership of Eyjólfur (Sigurður Sigurjónsson), has become an oppressive force to the struggling community of farmers, forcing them to buy products such as fertilizer at high co-op prices and restricting how they sell their hard-earned milk.
The County is a compelling look at contemporary farm life in rural Iceland. Early silent scenes show Inga pulling a calf from its mother’s womb and running the machinery that milks the cows. But Inga and her husband, Reynir (Hinrik Ólafsson), who took over the operation of his family’s farm, are deep in debt and can’t break the stranglehold that the co-op has on them.
When Reynir finds a tragic way out, Inga starts to fight the power in her own way, at first with Facebook posts that claim the co-op is run like the mafia. Later, she employs more aggressive measures that draw the wrath of Eyjólfur and his henchmen.
As a determined, hard working woman who’s sick of seeing injustice and of being dismissed, Inga has echoes of the lead character in the excellent 2018 Icelandic film Woman at War as well as Frances McDormand’s character in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). But the film and Egilsdóttir’s low-key, textured performance depict Inga’s growing awareness and desire for change with an unexpected subtlety and even touches of humor that add to The County‘s cinematic richness and power.