“Percy,” a new based-on-real-life drama from director Clark Johnson now playing in select theatres, is a David and Goliath story with a universal message of standing up for what you believe in. Christopher Walken plays septuagenarian Percy Schmeiser, a small-town farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan, who refuses to be bullied by a giant agrochemical corporation.
Schmeiser and his family have been canola farmers for generations. His cash crop is planted the old-fashioned way, with “the most virile seeds” saved from previous harvests. That’s why it is a shock to be accused by agrochemical Goliath Monsanto Canada of illegally growing their patented canola seed without a license.
“There’s got to be a mistake,” Schmeiser says. “I got my own seeds.”
Determined to prove his innocence, Schmeiser hires a lawyer he can’t afford, Jackson Weaver (Zach Braff), and vows to fight back. When Monsanto legally outguns Weaver, threatening to bury the lawyer under piles of motions, along comes agricultural activist Rebecca Salcau (Christina Ricci) with a way forward. “what you are doing is heroic,” she tells him. “You should be recognized.”
“Percy” is the story of not bowing down to corporate greed. A restrained Walken leaves behind his trademarked vocal tics to bring the principled Percy to life, and Johnson keeps the focus on him. There are courtroom scenes and some legalese but this isn’t “A Few Good Men on a Farm.” It’s about a man struggling to maintain his family farm in the face of an agricultural revolution, a very real and hot button topic across North America and the world. As Percy reluctantly becomes a spokesman for the cause screenwriters Garfield Lindsay Miller and Hilary Pryor find authentic and humanistic ways to illustrate the plight of farmers like the title character. “Farmers know the land. They know their plants,” Percy says. “Monsanto knows winning and losing and profits.”
It is a classic underdog story, one designed to make your blood boil at the disregard corporations have for the little guy.
“Percy” isn’t a flashy movie, although the landscape shots of Saskatchewan’s open skies and fields are often breathtaking. Instead it’s a low-key story of the fight to maintain the integrity of the food we put in our mouths.