Addicted to Sheep

 

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This welcome portrayal of life on a family farm in the North Pennines deserves to be seen in its full form.

  

Addicted to Sheep

 

When screened on television by the BBC, Magali Pettier’s film was cut down to an hour which is a shame. Seen in full it provides a fascinating comparison with Andy Heathcote’s wonderful 2013 feature The Moo Man. The latter was a documentary feature about a dairy farm run by a family in Sussex whereas Pettier’s movie while also centred on a family enterprise is set in the North Pennines and revolves around sheep. Oddly enough both films labour under a title which seems ill-chosen (The Moo Man sounds childish, while in this day and age Addicted to Sheep could suggest a sensationalist sex movie!).

 

In fact both works find the filmmaker concerned splendidly in tune with those on screen. Here it is tenant farmer Tom Hutchinson, his wife Kay and their three young children not yet in their teenage years. All are engaging even if the children’s accents occasionally hamper understanding. It is the father who declares that he is addicted to sheep but it’s the children who are affected by the fate of the animals when they die. Indeed, the film is properly unsentimental yet deeply felt. The harsh side of this farming life is patent when sheep have to be castrated and cooking preparations shown include degutting, but more striking than these sequences is one featuring a difficult birth.

 

But Addicted to Sheep is not limited to the Hutchinson family and there are admirable school scenes in which local pupils express their views about the kind of life depicted in this film. Many aspects of the work are touched on and a sense of community emerges even as it becomes apparent how difficult it is for farmers to plan ahead for old age. Of the two films, I do find The Moo Man the more poetic and the more moving but this is an unexpectedly close runner-up, a warm and human film that fully succeeds in holding its audience without any recourse to a commentary. Recommended.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring Tom and Kay Hutchinson and their family.

 

Dir Magali Pettier, Pro Magali Pettier and Jan Cawood, Screenplay Magali Pettier, Ph Magali Pettier, Ed Matthew Dennis, Music James Burrell.

 
Provenance Films-
Provenance Films.
86 mins. UK. 2015. Rel: 28 August 2015. Cert. PG.