Sweetgrass - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Sweetgrass Reviews

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September 30, 2016
You know, for a documentary with no voiceover about sheep farming in Montana, it's not bad...
May 26, 2016
Much of the first part of the film is dialogue free, but the stunning scenery throughout means this matters little, the story of sheep-sherding doesn't sound that interesting, but it is a fascinating window on the world.
½ March 16, 2016
Beautiful landscapes and the white ocean of bleating sheep make this an addictive one
½ July 29, 2015
Very good, UNTIL the herder smacks his horse on the Face!! OMG, what a macho, abusive loser!!
April 20, 2015
Amazing. A bunch of cowboys (sheepboys?) take hundreds of sheep up to the tops of the Beartooth Mountains for summer pasture, for the very last time, in 2003. Beautifully filmed and edited, the tale tells itself with no externals such as narration or music. They have a really hard time, then drive those sheep back down the mountains in the autumn. Thoroughly absorbing. Shown on Film 4 some months ago.
September 23, 2014
Ok I did not watch it...But it is clearly a documentary. NOT A WESTERN
½ September 16, 2014
Sweetgrass was a meditation of a disappearing way of life in shepherding in Montana. The scenery shows a land both beautiful and dangerous. The personalities of the hired hands are great - from the work-hardened older man, Jonah, and the young cowboy calling his mom from the mountain top to complain about his life. His language was awful but he got his point across.
½ December 30, 2012
If you like watching the mistreatment of animals, well then this one's for you. I'm just wondering why these people still raise sheep when they seem to hate them so much?
½ February 15, 2012
Sweetgrass (Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, 2009)

Sweetgrass opens with two incredibly compelling shots that would do Bla Tarr proud. In some ways, they set the tone for the film; there's a lot of landscape, a lot of sheep, and a lot of lingering shots, either stationary or slow-pan. Barbash and Castaing-Taylor are well aware of Tarr. And if the movie played out its full length as it does in those first two shots and the twenty-five minutes that follow them, I would have put this pretty high on my list of favorite documentaries ever. Unfortunately, as you may surmise from that last sentence, it doesn't.

The first half-hour is gorgeous. It keeps up with the sheep-and-landscape theme. Humans exist in the movie, of course, but at no point during the first half-hour are those humans more than background noise, either in their presence in the film or the movie's sound (which, I should warn you, my wife found incredibly annoying; I had no problems with it). It is languid, and it is breathtaking.

Then the humans take center stage, and while I won't say the entire thing goes to pot, it takes a pretty sharp left turn in that direction. These are not likable folks, for the most part. Actually, I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to come up with diplomatic ways to talk about this, and I can't. I hated these people. Every last one of them. The sheep have better personalities.

Whenever the directors left the humans and cut to another slow pan shot of a huge mountain with sheep coming down it or a tree framed in moonlight or a sheep's face in close-up, I rejoiced a little. I also spent some time hoping that there would be another human-free half-hour bookending the film, but (spoiler alert!) it was not to be.

Well worth watching for the first half-hour. Touch and go after that. ** 1/2
February 2, 2012
The film starts out as a slow, contemplative documentary on nature and sheep but slowly and steadily shifts to one about the herders who are moving them down a mountain for the last time. It's a gorgeously shot film about routines and frustration, about a way of life that has reached its end.
February 1, 2012
I dream of a day when I have sheep in a yard near my house. Scratch that. I *used to* dream that. After 30 minutes of hearing sheep bleating, I could no longer watch this movie. Therefore, the dream of sheep is now dead for me.
January 29, 2012
If you are into watching the show "Sunrise Earth" you'll appreciate this doc. Absolutely no narration only the cowboys talk, but not directly to the camera. A really relaxing movie....
½ January 21, 2012
The movie that proves that there is more in Montana than just trees and mountains: there are sheep, and thousands of them. This is a documentary that I appreciate for not being manipulative about its topic. What is so interesting how it is able to pull you in from the very first scene. Honestly, I was not looking forward to it at all, and I know better than to judge a film by a synopsis. However, it is within the first two minutes that you are totally invested in watching these people go about their everyday lives as sheep herders. And it is amazing that you learn so much about this sort of occupation, despite there being so little dialogue, or even interviews. The first 20 or-so minutes has no dialogue at all. You learn a lot about the way sheep are handled just by watching them. And at first, the film seems to make it feel like a great job to have. In fact, it almost made me want to do that. It is not until the halfway point of the film that you start to see the hardships, and they are not gentle with it at all (but in a good way). While it is a normal life for them, you still feel sorry for what they go through. Once again, a great documentary that is really worth seeing, despite its premise and topic. Trust me, you will not regret it.
½ December 17, 2011
A stunningly beautiful film documenting the life of sheepherders in Montana. The honesty of the film almost makes you want to cry.
½ December 15, 2011
At times the movie seems to be grinding to an almost obnoxious pause, but sooner or later it kicks some drama to just barely keep us into it through the end. In the meantime, we're treated to a feast of stunning visuals. I went into this movie knowing little, and no direct narration is offered until a few words displayed on-screen at the end. These words offer information that elevates the meaning of everything we've just seen. On top of that, the movie is a stunning piece of cinematography and sound. These are basically the only two devices used to tell pretty much the entire story as it unfolds for 100 minutes. We hear characters speak in ways that offer us information which contributes to the story, but that is not to say they are ever really directly telling us the story. There were some times when I was a little confused about what was going on and frustrated by the filmmakers' steadfast refusal to directly offer us information that would help us understand. I do understand, though, and I even did as I was feeling frustrated, that the decision to absolutely refuse to offer the audience any other information than what is there to be captured by the camera and the microphone has purpose. And in fact that decision contributes to the emotional impact of the film's finale. This is a gorgeous film, a touching tribute, and a precious American historical document.
July 26, 2011
The best sheep-based documentary I've seen this year. An unusual and fascinating story, told at a gently pace - you really do have to be in the right mood, but if you are, this is an absorbing film.
½ July 3, 2011
Sweetgrass is slow and subtle but compelling nonetheless. Ilisa Barbash Lucien Castaing-Taylor film a summer of sheep as they graze on public lands. This traditional ceased in 2003 and this documentary captured clash between tradition and today. There are some humorous scenes, such as hundreds of sheep marching down the town(TM)s Main Street past the Radio Shack or a cowboy complaining about how the sheep always try to escape and find their way into tricky places on the mountain.

The sheepherds speak of their worry adjusting to the future when this way of life ends. The documentary is a diversion. But in the way 2001: A Space Odyssey is more insightful than The Search for Spock, it is a better work of art than Restrepo. When their next films come out, Barbash and Castaing-Taylor will likely receive more critical acclaim than Hetherington and Junger. But Sweetgrass is a merely a diversion, not a comprehensive investigation of a meaningful problem.
½ June 26, 2011
Really quite fascinating document of a sheep drive to summer pasture. There is no narration whatsoever, each scene is simply presented to the viewer which demands a higher level of engagement as you try to figure out what's going on. This film is stunningly beautiful, majestic, unsympathetic, fascinating, quirky and totally unique.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2011
"Sweetgrass" is a stunningly photographed documentary about the process of sheep farming in Montana. The movie keeps the human subjects at a distance, giving us little chance to really get to know any of them. Instead, the natural scenery and the sheep are the true stars here and the one who looks directly into the camera knows that. In fact, he would like to file a complaint with his union representative about the working conditions.

Yeah about that. Not much has changed in this profession since the 19th century. The cowboys still ride horses, camp out under the stars and rely on dogs for a lot of help in keeping the sheep in line. Cell phones are about the only indication that this is now the 21st century. And I should warn those of you expecting lots and lots of footage of cute sheep roaming around the mountains that there is a gruesome shot of an eviscerated sheep which speaks to the difficulty and frustration for the cowboys which is expressed in the most colorful language heard since "Deadwood" went off the air.
June 12, 2011
Slow, and for the first half hour or so, I found myself wondering why on earth I'd handed over good money to watch a film about shepherds wandering around Montana. It's strangely hypnotic, though and gives a good idea of just how hard a life it is - and why they come to hate their flock. (By the by, why 'last cowboys'? surely they're 'sheepboys'?)
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