A tobacco farm in the middle of winter may not seem like the most picturesque setting, but Abundant Acreage Available proves that beauty and grace can be found in the most unexpected places. Set entirely on one 50-acre farm in North Carolina, writer-director Angus MacLachlan’s quiet, introspective drama is filled with sweeping shots of the open sky, the barren woods, and the crops laid low and brown by winter. MacLachlan (who wrote 2005’s Junebug) captures the land in all its somberness and beauty, and it’s those 50 acres that are the heart of this minimalist family drama.
When we first meet the two adult siblings who own the farm, Tracy (Amy Ryan) and Jesse (Terry Kinney), they’re preparing to bury their late father. The religious-minded Jesse would prefer to lay their father to rest in a proper graveyard, but Tracy insists that his remains belong here on the farm, where he spent his entire life. Shortly after they bury his ashes, they discover a trio of old men who’ve set up a tent on their land. The three brothers (Max Gail, Francis Guinan, and Steve Coulter) first tell Tracy and Jesse that their car broke down nearby, but eventually, the truth comes out: Their family used to own this farm, and they spent their childhood here, too. As the brothers’ visit stretches on for days and family secrets start to bubble up, those 50 sprawling acres start to seem a bit cramped for five people.
Of the five, Tracy feels the most lived-in and human, and Ryan imbues her character with a quiet stoicism as she tries to reconcile her own grief with her empathy for the three brothers. Amazingly, this is Ryan’s first lead role in a feature film, and although the sparse Abundant Acreage doesn’t always rise to her level, her understated but powerful performance brings the story to life — even in the dead of winter. B