A vegan beef farmer… that’s not something you hear every day.
Alex Lockwood’s BAFTA winning short film tells the story of one such man. Jay Wilde inherited Bradley Nook Farm when his father died in 2011, and it didn’t take long for him to feel as though he was ‘betraying’ the cows by sending them to the slaughter.
Wilde explains how it was ‘very difficult to do your best to look after them and then send them to the slaughterhouse for what must be a terrifying death.’ Ultimately, when Wilde could no longer justify killing his animals, and his wife Katja could see how this internal struggle was upsetting him, the pair decided to do something about it.
The film tells the story of the farm’s transition from beef to vegan produce, and the conflicts felt along the way. The decision would prove not only expensive, but also controversial, with many fellow farmers branding it the ‘funny farm’ after the story made headlines. Lockwood documents this entire process, including what exactly Jay and Katja did with all their cows.
Above all this, the film is really a simple profile of two people who decided to do something incredibly risky and in defiance of all that was expected of them, simply because they felt it was the right thing to do. In many ways, it’s the perfect example of the moral courage it takes to make such a life-changing decision.
The interviews with Jay in particular are fascinating. He’s open and honest about everything he feels. He’s visibly tormented, clearly a man wrestling with a great deal of emotional anguish. On the one hand, he feels a duty to continue his father’s work, and to not let his family or the farming community down. On the other, he believes that what he’s doing is morally wrong. His determination to push on with his decision despite all these concerns is to be admired.
The film is also wonderfully presented. Cinematographer Oliver Walton’s shot composition is surprisingly polished and cinematic, despite the crew’s apparent low budget. There’s an effective use of slo-mo that meshes well with the film’s tone, themes, and with Jay’s calm demeanour.
Despite its short run-time, the film does feel a tad too long, coming across a little padded out in the closing minutes. Also, it comes close to preachiness at times, as opposed to the simple character study that it is clearly trying and, for the most part, succeeding to be.
Lockwood has said that he was drawn to the Jay Wilde because it was ‘a great story of human conflict and compassion’. That’s exactly what his film is and, despite a couple of minor gripes, it’s a wholly affecting piece that lingers in your memory and makes you think, featuring a fascinating, admirable and brave individual at the heart of it.
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