the farmer's wife

Press Reaction

New York Daily News, David Bianculli

"...It's a heavy viewing load, but certainly nothing compared to the trials and troubles, on the farm and in the home, thrown at Juanita and Darrel Buschkoetter. And watching "The Farmer's Wife" is time very well spent: This is an honest, haunting, unflinching instructive and intimate study of a family that seems doomed to fail, but refuses to give up easily..."The Farmer's Wife" has a coherent and compelling story worthy of a classic novel. (Four Stars)"

Chicago Tribune, Steve Johnson

"....one of the extraordinary television events of the decade. "The Farmer's Wife" is a breathtaking piece of work, a harrowingly intimate love story set against an unforgiving physical and cultural landscape.....[it] is bigger than just a farm story, offering lessons for a culture that acts as if poverty only occurs in inner cities, that piles up debt and ducks out by declaring bankruptcy, or that hits a rough patch in a marriage and scurries off to see a divorce lawyer."

The Forum, Tom Pantera

"Norman Rockwell's America interpreted by John Steinbeck...It's a truly amazing piece of filmmaking."

People Magazine

"In recommending this special Frontline documentary, we're not going to varnish the truth: At 6 1/2 hours, it is simply too long. Filmmaker David Sutherland....could have cut "The Farmer's Wife" by a third and actually increased its effectiveness. But if Sutherland didn't know when to quit, we venture to say it was only because he loved his subjects too well. And it's easy to see why this project inspired such passion. It's an extraordinarily intimate portrait of two decent people who work so hard to make ends meet that they lack the energy for what those with less labor-intensive lives call communication.....Bottom Line: Exhausting but rewarding."

The Sun, Baltimore

".....an intimate and profound examination of a marriage.

Some have compared it to the 1973 PBS documentary "An American Family." I think it's in a league with Marcel Ophuls' great 1970 documentary "The Sorrow and the Pity." "The Farmer's Wife" saves the very soul of the new television season and serves as a reminder of how good television can be when it is not all about commercialism and profit...it will be one of the most rewarding viewing experiences of your life...Filmmakers like Ken Burns and Bill Moyers talk a lot about "the American character," but David Sutherland actually shows it to us in "The Farmer's Wife""

The New York Times, Walter Goodman

".....The Farmer's Wife" with its unsparing theme, just doesn't produce enough drama to repay watching unless you have a soft spot for in-law spats and domestic bickerings.....None of this is a criticism of the Buschkoetters. Few lives are made for television, and their troubles deserve attention. Mr. Sutherland has delivered a respectable sociological document. But for six and a half hours, it would be helpful to have a more eventful story to tell or more variety in the telling."

The Oregonain, Ron Miller

"....not until this week's ..."The Farmer's Wife," has any filmmaker probed so deeply into the heart of an American family with such gutwrenching results......Sutherland's film ultimately gets at a truth about human relationships that surely will resonate through every household that tunes into "The Farmer's Wife."

The Village Voice, Tom Carson

"....If Sutherland thought the Buschkoetters were average folks, he must know they stopped qualifying the minute his crew came to the door. But why should he care, since he's out to swell their story to the stature of myth--a glowing echt-Americana epic, with editing that lingers importantly over every gorgeous sunset that Darrel drives his tractor through and lardings of fake Copland soaring away on the soundtrack. While the director may believe that he's honoring the Buschkoetters, these embellishments falsify their experience as much as sticking them in "The Real World's " swank digs would....a strikingly egotistic form of compassion. Sutherland often seems less moved by the Buschkoetters than by his vision of them; you can't help feeling that's a mite proud of all the beauty he's lavishing on this family's miseries."

Detroit Free Press, David Crumm

"....mesmerizing in its intimacy and honesty.....The main reason we're drawn into their lives is the amazing mosaic of rural life that Sutherland has assembled around them. He understands that most rural communities are tightly knit networks that connect families, schools, farms, shops and churches....By the end of Wednesday evening, you may have shed a few tears with this brave family." (Four Stars)

The Boston Globe, John Koch

"When the characters in a movie or book or play lodge in your mind and heart, stubbornly taking up residence without necessarily being invited, you know the artist responsible for them has done something very right. Such is the case with "The Farmer's Wife," David Sutherland's non-fiction film covering three years in the struggling livesof the Buschkoetters....The three-part, six-and-a-half hour documentary...is a big investment of time for any viewer, and some of the film moves with the kind of deliberate, almost ritual, slowness of the grinding farm work that can occupy Darrel 15 hours a day. But this deeply American tale of loss and renewal will repay your attention in countless ways."

The Arizona Republic, Joanne Weintraub

"Jessica Lange in "Country," Sissy Spacek in "The River," Sally Field in "Places in the Heart"... Juanita Buschkoetter puts them all in the shade. Buschkoetter is the real thing....whose life is laid bare to stunningly effect .... This presentation comes under the umbrella of PBS' Frontline which specializes in investigative journalism. In tone and format, "The Farmer's Wife" is a significant departure for the series--but in Sutherland's commitment to get to the heart of the matter and his skill at finding it, he fits right in."

The Indianapolis Star, Steve Hall

"...this heartwrenching portrait of a young Nebraska farm family is epic yet devastatingly intimate. TV hasn't tried anything of this scope and honesty since...the 1973 documentary series "An American Family"...."The Farmer's Wife" gets to an emotional truth about relationships in a way that is rare and resonant for television."

Newsday,  Diane Werts

"The Farmer's Wife" is engrossing soap opera, despite its lack of infidelity, crime or bouts of amnesia. This is the real thing---real life---the three-night, three-year saga of young Darrel and Juanita Buschkoetter's ongoing battle to save their rural Nebraska family farm, and their three-child marriage, and that bedrock American way of life to which most of us pay only lip service....Pretty spectacular is a good way to describe "The Farmer's Wife which in its subtle way has so much to say about so many things. The Buschkoetters' dream. The Sutherlands' dream. The American dream."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, John Levesque

..."most definitely a stirring account of one woman's commitment to her marriage, her faith and her husband's dream. But David Sutherland's film...is not entirely successful because for most of its three-night run, it is unceasingly gloomy....Still, for those of sturdy constitution [it] provides more honest, intimate drama than a month's worth of fictional prime-time fare. And, in the fine journalistic tradition of "Frontline," the film's real strength may lie in the questions it raises about the wisdom of clinging at all costs to a noble but possibly outdated tradition."

Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdae, Tom Jicha

"America's farmers feed the world. Alas, a distressing number don't make enough for their efforts to feed their own families. Hollywood has effectively dramatized this tragic reality numerous times but never as movingly as "The Farmer's Wife"....The result is a provocative, painful, yet ultimately heartening piece likely to be analyzed and discussed for years to come....The tendency of viewers to sample the network's new wares is certain to cut into the potential audience... Shame on the powers at PBS for their arrogance in not giving this marvelous production the opportunity to achieve the widest possible exposure."

Boston Herald, Monica Collins

"....A stunning epic...the most absorbing documentary to air on public television since "The Civil War"....."The Farmer's Wife should be remembered as the shining hit of the 1998-99 TV season--on PBS, or any network."

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jonathan Storm

"Quite possibly, it will turn out to be the best program on television for the entire official ratings season .... If you value your aesthetic, intellectual or emotional life, you simply cannot ignore "The Farmer's Wife.".... [It] is a strange documentary. Universal in its themes, yet sometimes unsettlingly intimate. Deeply psychological, yet political. Artfully constructed, though its characters are guileless. Stunning to look at."

The Washington Times, Rob Owen

"At 6 1/2 hours, "The Farmer's Wife" probably could have been trimmed by at least an hour. It seems bloated and sometimes repetitive, particularly in regard to the amount of time spent on the friction between Mr. Buschkoetter and his father and between Mrs. Buschkoetter and her family. But most of the time is necessary to develop the various threads in their relationship and explore the dynamics and personalities of their children, which don't begin to emerge until the second night."

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