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