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Inextricably rooted in lead Arndis Hrönn Egilsdöttir’s quietly defiant performance, “The County” tells an immersive, timeless David vs. Goliath story set against a contemporary backdrop of shifting societal norms.
The underdog in question is Egilsdöttir’s Inga, a recently widowed dairy farmer in the northwest of Iceland who faces off against the formidable cooperative that has kept her financially struggling neighbors effectively hogtied with its bullying, monopolistic practices.
Inga discovers the extent to which the co-op may have played a role in the death of her husband, Reynir (Hinrik Ólafsson). He had been blackmailed into snitching on those who, rather than pay the outfit’s exorbitant prices, bought their supplies elsewhere. Taking her grievances to Facebook, she sets the stage for an increasingly unpleasant public confrontation.
Inga goes where the likes of Erin Brockovich and Norma Rae have campaigned before her. However, accomplished writer-director Grímur Hákonarson, whose previous film, 2015’s “Rams,” won the prestigious Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes, doesn’t need sweeping symphonic fanfares or throngs of cheering crowds to rouse his audience.
All that is required is to have Estonian cinematographer Mart Taniel keep his camera tightly trained on Inga’s unapologetically lived-in, deceptively world-weary face.
Coming across like an Icelandic Frances McDormand, Egilsdöttir wears her socially ostracized survivor’s instinct like a suit of armor, ready and able to do battle with whatever smug, paternalistic adversary may be fool enough to cross her path.
In Icelandic with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Starts April 30, Lumiere Cinema, Beverly Hills, and in limited release where theaters are open; also available, Laemmle Virtual Cinema