Starring Christopher Walken, Roberta Maxwell, Christina Ricci, Zach Braff, Martin Donovan, Peter Stebbings, Luke Kirby and Adam Beach
Directed by Clark Johnson
Written by Garfield L. Miller and Hilary Pryor
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rated: PG for infrequent coarse language and smoking
Now playing at Cineplex South Edmonton
I would not have made dancin’ Christopher Walken my first choice to play a salt-of-the earth Saskatchewan canola farmer, but after seeing Percy, the based-on-a-true-story film reminds me of Erin Brockovich and so many other occasions when real people had to fight much bigger entities but not of their choosing.
The titular Percy is Percy Schmeiser, the child of European immigrants who escaped serfdom and established their new lives on Canadian Prairie soil. Growing up on the land, he learned the best ways to plant a crop and keep it healthy from year to year, and decade to decade. He’s the kind of dedicated farmer who gets up to leave church right in the middle of singing Hallelujah just so that he can get his seeds in the ground and beat the rain.
Those seeds, by the way, are everything. He's a seed saver: someone who saves the seeds of his best crop to start his next year's crop. It's a time-honoured tradition, but what does Monsanto care about tradition? They sue him for using their seeds without a permit after plants containing their patented genetically-enhanced Roundup-resistance were discovered on his land. He fights it, small potatoes kind of guy that he is, and goes up against the gigantic multibillion dollar, multinational monster.
No one likes a bully. Everyone likes the underdog. Yes, Percy is that movie but it has a great Prairie twist. It’s basically David and Goliath on a Saskachewan wheat field, but it doesn’t go like you think it should. The fight went on a long time. It still goes on in a lot of ways but Percy won by becoming a public figure for the battle. He took on speaking engagements, gained the people’s support and apparently he is still revered by many small independent farmers around the world. Word is even farmers in India know his name as the folk hero from Bruno.
In that character, Walken provides a reassuring presence as a man who doesn’t let a corporate bully steamroll over him. He and his wife could have lost everything because they refused to pay for the ‘genetic technology’ that they didn’t even want in the first place. Walken is perfect in the role. He doesn’t dance in this film, but man does his performance sing.
While the real Schmeiser sadly died only this week, his story lives on through this film to instruct future generations on trusting the seed, not the faceless corporation.