October Country (2009) - Rotten Tomatoes

October Country (2009)



Critic Consensus: It flirts with voyeurism, but this deeply personal look at a working-class family in upstate New York is piercingly honest and refreshingly unsentimental.

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Movie Info

A family struggles to stay together despite a long and troubling history of emotional trauma in this visually striking documentary. When asked about his family, Don Mosher tells an interviewer, "We wouldn't know normal if it fell on us." The line is more than just a self-depreciating joke as we spend a year with the Moshers, who live in a decaying rural community in New York State. Don is a Vietnam veteran who is still dealing with the emotional scars of war and is either withdrawn or sharply judgmental around his family. His wife, Dottie, tries to put a positive spin on the grim circumstances of her life, but sometimes her desire to nurture those around her causes more problems, including taking in a foster son who turns to a life of crime. Their daughter, Donna, was a reckless youth who became a teenage mother and found herself married to an abusive husband. Donna's daughter Daneal followed the same path as her mother and is now a teenage mother herself, raising a child on her own after the father abandoned her. Donna's younger daughter, Desi, is a clever and intelligent girl who seems unusually aware of the world around her for a child her age. And Don's estranged sister, Denise, has turned her back on the family and instead studies witchcraft with a group of Wiccans who regularly gather in a nearby graveyard. Donal Mosher is a photographer and filmmaker who is a member of the Mosher family, and with their cooperation, he and co-director Michael Palmieri followed them from one October to the next as they struggled with their demons while clinging to family bonds that give them strength. October Country was the grand prize winner at the 2009 Silverdocs Film Festival.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Special Interest
Directed By: ,
Written By: Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 26, 2010
Wishbone Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for October Country

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (14)

Eventually you wonder whether the capacity to accept and forgive is a virtue or part of what's holding the Moshers down.

Full Review… | June 3, 2010
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The beauty of October Country, beside its artful images, is how it compresses the windblown fortunes of working-class America into the fallen leaves of one forlorn family.

Full Review… | June 3, 2010
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

You can probably extract a sociological or political message from the film, but I don't think that was the intention. This lack of an agenda seems to add to the movie's intensity.

Full Review… | May 7, 2010
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Too often, the camera is angling to be the star.

Full Review… | April 29, 2010
Boston Globe
Top Critic

A powerful portrait of the American working poor and the dynamics that govern all families, regardless of economic class.

Full Review… | April 9, 2010
Washington Post
Top Critic

Unlike similar yet superior films like Capturing the Friedmans, October Country has no mysteries to probe or revelations to share.

Full Review… | March 18, 2010
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for October Country

The 1 person that stuck out most for me in October Country was Dottie.She truly has a heart of gold for letting Chris back after he steals from her & her husband again & again.She even takes him to buy clothes at Wal Mart because he doesnt have any after he steals from her again.What a woman! A GREAT documentary that would've been perfect if only there were updates on what happened to The Mosher Family after the documentary was over.Thats always disappointing.

Brody Manson

Super Reviewer


Real-life 'Adams Family' debuts in upstate New York

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Believe it or not, there's a real-life 'Adams Family' and they live in upstate New York. October Country was originally developed from a series of photographs taken by Donal Mosher in the small town of Ilion, New York. Collaborating with Michael Palmieri, Donal shot video footage of his own family over a year's time which included four separate visits, from one Halloween to the next. We never actually see Donal but it can be easily surmised that he was the 'normal one' who 'escaped'.

All of the Mosher family members have names that begin with "D" and each have skeletons in their closet. The patriarch is Don, a Vietnam vet who worked for years in the local police department. Don is perhaps the most introspective of all the family members and is extremely reluctant to talk about his experiences in Vietnam but when he does, his words are both shattering and moving. Like his wife Dottie says, he never was the same after he came back from Vietnam. Don has one major shortcoming: he won't forgive his sister, Denise, a Wiccan who hangs out in the local cemetery trying to conjure up spirits and also trying to cope with her crippling arthritis. It seems Denise cursed Don out the day he left for Vietman, when she was very young, wishing that he would be killed there.

Don's wife Dottie has a heart of gold but can't put her foot down. She takes in Chris, a troubled young adolescent, as her foster son, who ends up stealing property from the Moshers on more than one occasion. Don and Dottie's daughter is Donna who has two daughters, Danael (who loses custody of her infant daughter, Ruby, when we first meet her) and Desiree (nicknamed Desi), a spunky teenager who seems to be the only one who appears on camera who is reasonably well-adjusted.

Of all the family members, I can't remember much about Donna?only that she looked older than someone in her late 30s. We do learn that Donna's former paramour (Danael's father) is now in prison, after molesting Danael when she was young (Danael relates that she prevented her father from trying to molest her younger sister by getting in between them in bed). Danael makes the same lousy choices in men as her mother did. After breaking up with the father of her child, she's seen with a new boyfriend whose authoritarian outlook and controlling attitude towards women, is obvious.

The Moshers never seem to notice that they're being filmed. Despite all the dysfunctional behavior, they are all self-reflective and critical of themselves. The problem is that despite recognizing and understanding what their problems are, they're still unable to change themselves.

October Country has a haunting soundtrack and cinematography that focuses on conveying the environment where the family lives. It's an environment that includes beautiful shots of nature coupled with the more mundane (and sometimes ugly) images of small-town America (Wal-Mart is a significant social gathering spot; Remington Arms, the local gun plant, is where most people are employed).

October Country sometimes drags in spots?as in real life, not everything that happens is dramatic. Still, for those who are interested in the offbeat, October Country is for you. It's a documentary that's both a little sad but funny at the same time. When all is said and done, the Mosher family might seem a little strange, but they are not that much different than you and me.

Lewis Papier

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