Robert Redford's underrated directorial follow-up to his Academy Award-winning Ordinary People, The Milagro Beanfield War
is a loose and whimsical fable about community pride and social activism in the face of modern progress. Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman
) plays a local mechanic in a small New Mexico town who takes up the challenge of rallying support for a local farmer who uses water owned by a real estate developer to grow beans in his field. Everything escalates to a showdown between the townspeople and the developers, with unexpected results. The strongest aspect of the film is the way it doesn't take itself too seriously, with Redford adopting a leisurely tone and allowing his fine cast (including Ruben Blades as the pragmatic town sheriff and Christopher Walken as a nasty state police officer) to deliver finely nuanced performances that touch on themes of faith and perseverance without seeming heavy-handed. The Milagro Beanfield War
is an overlooked gem. --Robert Lane
A Chicano handyman (Chick Vennera) in northern New Mexico inadvertently kicks down the sluice gate of a private water supply, which irrigates his father's dried-up field. Beans are planted and thrive but the developer next door (Richard Bradford) wants the water himself and has the State Governor on his side. The local community comes together to battle the politicos.