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All of this could have made a fun ninety minutes, but somehow the film doesn’t hang together that well.
Good documentaries need good subjects, but sometimes a good subject just isn’t enough. Ex-BBC documentarian Rob Ryan obviously thought that he was on to a winner with this one. It is an account of a woman calling herself “Sister Kate” (she actually isn’t a nun at all, but more of that later). She and a group of her friends are into growing and supplying medical marijuana in Merced County, California. They espouse hemp-based products rich in CBD (but not the psychotropic THC). CBD is indeed remarkable, and we have yet to fully explore its potential for treating everything from seizures to cancer pain.
Ryan follows Kate and the other “sisters” as they walk around their local town. We don’t really get to see much of the public’s reaction to them but, then again, this is America where attention-grabbing stunts are ten a penny. There is one revealing scene where a man upbraids Kate for posing as a nun which he, as a Catholic, finds offensive. Kate quickly back peddles by saying how much she respects his right to believe what he believes etc, but this just leaves one wondering why they feel the need to dress as nuns in the first place.
In fact, Kate’s motivations are always a little mixed throughout, although Ryan gives her enough time and space to explain herself. She was apparently a “high powered” businesswoman, but when her marriage fell apart, she suddenly found herself with a need for cash. Somewhat opportunistically (and at the suggestion of a brother that she later fell out with), she becomes a grower/supplier. Kate lived in Holland for eight years where she presumably learned to enjoy the product – THC and all.
We also get a bit of Kate’s somewhat vexed relation to her grown up son and her occasional run-ins with the local gangs. These gangs rightly see ripping off Kate’s crop as an easier way to get product than growing their own and, this being America again, they have no shortage of guns to enforce their point. This takes the picture toward more extreme and violent territory, but it doesn’t quite know where to go with that angle.
Then there is the issue of the local sheriff. He’s a bit of a straw man, but the film needs an antagonist. He’s not a complete redneck incidentally (and he realises that pot is here to stay), but he rightly worries about the violence that potentially big profits bring. Ryan clearly tries to understand the sheriff’s position, but he also realises that Kate is better doco material.
All of this could have made for a fun ninety minutes, but somehow the film doesn’t hang together that well. A lot depends on one’s interest in the self-obsessed Kate. Though she is brave to expose herself to the documentarian’s lens, she is, in the end, not as interesting as she thinks she is.