Vibrant, Enlightening, and Larger Than Life, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM Chronicles The Unbelievable Story Of Nature
Following the adventures of two dreamers and their pet dog, The Biggest Little Farm is a documentary that chronicles John and Molly Chester’s efforts in creating a sustainable farm.
Director: John Chester
Cast: John Chester, Molly Chester
Runtime: 92 mins
Nature is relatively simple. The sky is blue, the grass is green, the earth is constantly revolving and the galaxy is gradually expanding. These are facts of life that we’ve all grown up knowing, little fascinating tidbits of the wider universe that we have learnt to accept as common sense.
But understanding these little things is one thing; to actually recreate a micro-version of this natural world in the form of a self-sustaining farm, to build a tiny plot of ecosystem that breathes and grows and functions like its larger, grander counterpart, is an entirely new ballgame. Yet this is what John and Molly Chester, together with their pet dog Todd, are adamant on achieving.
Spoiler alert: They did it. And it is a hell of an adventure.
The film follows their story chronologically, and much like any other camera-savvy everyday person who’s embarking on a crazy new adventure, the first part of their story is a mix of home video, vlog-esque footage that captures their baby steps into this unknown territory. This is juxtaposed with a series of comedic, quirky animation sequences that navigate their whirlwind of creativity, ideas, hopes, and grand aspirations in a way that seems straight out of a children’s fairy tale. These two elements could be jarring and off-putting to watch, yet somehow these two contrasting formats meld together in a way that seems almost natural.
In retrospect, it makes sense. The vlog-like videos are used to archive their foray into sustainable farming, while the animation is a visual representation of their wildest fantasies; even as they are busy making plans and looking for sponsors, their dream is still, well, a dream. It is elusive and obscure, easy to imagine yet difficult to pin to reality — and to all of us out there who have ever chased after a too-good-to-be-true daydream, it is remarkably relatable.
“Diversity, diversity, diversity,” is what Alan York, an eccentric biodynamic farming expert, preaches to them when they first enlist his help. It is only then that the true main characters of this film enter: animals, a myriad of plants, an orchard full of fruits and flowers, and a staggering number of worms and bees.
This is where the true odyssey begins. Regardless of how beautiful nature is when it eventually comes back to life in their barren land, creating and maintaining a farm isn’t as easy as simply clicking on patches of grass in a mobile game. And nature is, indeed, utterly spellbinding — their flimsy imagination, illustrated through fancy animation, is no match to the natural spectacle of the earth itself. The mixture of close-up, slow-motion, beauty shots of wildlife building their homes in the rejuvenated earth are slightly self-indulgent, but are absolutely gorgeous and evocative of the works of National Geographic. And as with all things, they come with their fair share of troubles.
The flowers and fruits are blossoming, but the snails and birds are leeching off of them; the chickens provide for a bountiful harvest in terms of eggs, yet their predators are lurking in the dark; gophers aerate their soil, only to ruin their crops. Just as we are completely clueless about the happenings in a natural environment, neither John nor Molly are equipped to deal with the slew of problems that come their way.
In a stroke of storytelling genius, we are taken alongside their thought processes and methods as they attempt to problem solve each issue that they come, with John’s voice-over monologuing through the stages of waiting, observing, analysing, and then creatively coming up with a possible solution. We’re learning and figuring things out along with them, and no spoilers, but some of the answers are so incredible and baffling, you won’t believe it until you watch it.
If literally following along their journey isn’t enough to draw you in, the folksy-classical soundtrack that runs consistently in the background of the film would. While the acoustic guitar music during one of the more emotional parts of the film is a little grating on the nerves after a while, the rest of the film’s whimsical soundtrack, evocative of the farm animals’ playful antics, does well in bringing out the hilarity and soul of the story.
Life is full of vicissitudes, and Mother Nature is no different. The Biggest Little Farm takes us on a rollercoaster of genres: it is whimsical and cute as Molly and John flail about trying to handle their new chores, hilarious and perplexing when a pig and a rooster becomes roommates (to an incomprehensible outcome), thrilling and nail-biting as John goes on a mission to hunt down their chicken murderer. Nothing is exactly as it seems, and the layers of complexities slowly unfold as Molly and John realise the truth: in integrating their lives with nature, there is bound to be disharmony. And that is precisely it.
Nature is disharmonious and chaotic, messy and inconsistent. The problems they face are organic and changing, and most of them solve themselves. It is impossible to know what to expect at the next turn, and everything that happens is at once vibrant and exciting as it is emotional and enlightening. In watching The Biggest Little Farm, you’re throwing yourself into an adventure of a lifetime, one that is intimately familiar yet extraordinarily beyond belief:
A ride through Nature.
The Biggest Little Farm is playing in cinemas now.
Meanwhile, catch the trailer here: