Comfort Farms purportedly is about a unique therapy program for veterans. I say purportedly because the spark and evolution of the farm are not brought up until around 35-minutes in this 77-minute long documentary. That means that roughly the first 45% of the film does not focus on its stated premise. Quite frankly, there would be nothing wrong with that if the set up was especially captivating, engaging, interesting, or relevant.
Sadly, that is not the case. To be clear right out the gate, writer-director Carlisle Kellam has noble intentions with his feature-length debut. He interviews several generations worth of veterans to create a holistic overview of how resources for treating trauma and reintegration available to the men and women of the armed forces have evolved. This is something that needs to be explored, and nothing I say in terms of the technical qualities of the film should diminish the stories, heroism, and bravery of the people interviewed here, the soldiers still in the thick of it, and their fallen comrades.
“…in 2014, former Army Ranger Jon Jackson hit upon the idea to use agriculture farming…to help veterans maintain a structured routine…”
But, Kellam gets too wrapped up in chronicling each story, as he puts it, in their own words. This means that Comfort Farms never looks at the big picture of all veterans. It narrowly focuses on the people that the Comfort Farms therapy is helping. How did they discover this therapy? What of the veterans that this sort of outlet does not help? What made these people join the military to begin with? None of these questions are explored.
But, the big question on your mind must be: what is Comfort Farms exactly? As the audience eventually learns (at the 34-minute and 28-second mark to be exact), in 2014, former Army Ranger Jon Jackson hit upon the idea to use agriculture farming and a sustainable lifestyle (“if you can’t kill it, maybe you should not eat it”) to help veterans maintain a structured routine in daily life. Exactly how this inspiration struck remains obtuse at best, but as he was in this predicament, he realized that other veterans must be in similar situations. So, he starts up Comfort Farm, named after his fallen army buddy Captain Kyle Comfort.
Now, to be fair to the film, interspersed through all the interviews and archival war footage, there are scenes of the veterans working on the farm. But, as the farm has not been established or explored yet, it is all somewhat confusing and nonsensical. Why is there a bagpipe processional through the woods surrounding the farm? What do the late-night bonfire laments mean in the context of both the farm and the veterans on a personal level? Understanding these elements does not come until over halfway though they are present for almost the entire time.
"…roughly the first 45% of the film does not focus on its own stated premise."