Blessing: Paul Zehrer’s Moody Farm Film

Set in a Wisconsin farm, Paul Zehrer’s Blessing presents an anti-romantic view of the heartland, a deviation from the Hollywood norms.

A moody family drama the film captures the rhythms of Midwestern farm life in acute detail, with the morning damp air, the barn smell, the austere beauty of the countryside.

The members of the dairy-farming family are gripped with boredom and claustrophobia. The autocratic Jack (Guy Griffis) is an embittered patriarch barely able to make ends meet; in fits of frustration, he beats his cows. His frightened wife, Arlene (Carlin Glynn), fends off despair by entering newspaper lotteries and tending her religious statues.

Whenever Jack climbs to the top of the silo (to take snapshots), she is convinced he is spying on a neighboring woman. Occasionally, when Arlene voices her suspicions, he flies into a rage, digs a gaping hole in the backyard and orders her to fill it up just to give her something to do.

Of their three children, the oldest son has already fled, and the youngest, 10-year-old Clovis, is in the periphery. The central character is 23-year-old Randi (Melora Griffis), who dreams of becoming a marine biologist.

Family tensions arise when Randi becomes involved with Lyle (Gareth Williams), a milkman and freelance astrologer. They meet at the general store and strike up a friendship that quickly deepens into romance; the fact that Lyle has a wife and child back East doesn’t faze her.

In a tone that suggests a contemporary echo of “Wisconsin Death Tripa”, Michael Lesy’s collection of grim photographs, news stories and obituaries, Blessing shows the devastating impact of socio-economic change on a way of life that is out of step with the modern technological world.