Many documentaries have been made about family farms in hard times, with struggles caused by large scale farming, bad economies, poor weather, etc. At first glance, On Her Own looks like it could just be another in a row of films documenting the plight of the independent farmer, but it’s really more about how Nancy Prebelich’s family and farm are intertwined, and how losing one means losing the other.
Director Morgan Schmidt-Feng began filming Nancy and her family on their 5th Generation, 90 acre farm in 2009, less than a year after America’s financial crisis began. At this point the family consisted of Nancy, her parents, her sister, her sister’s husband and their three young kids. Her parents passed away soon after and without her own family to look after, Nancy took on most of the responsibility for the farm. The film ultimately covers five years of Nancy’s life, as it becomes increasingly clear that she will be the last Prebilich to farm that land.
On Her Own captures moments you wouldn’t imagine possible in a documentary like this., intimate moments between family members where it’s hard to imagine a film crew present. Nancy is a strong subject, both in how she handles herself and in her ability to keep the viewers’ interest. The film doesn’t feel manipulative, but that’s because it’s made with a subtlety that conceals the ways in which it manipulates the audience’s sympathies, which is the ultimate goal of documentary filmmaking.