February 1st, 2021
STARRING: ROBIN WRIGHT, DEMIAN BICHIR, KIM DICKENS
DIRECTED BY: ROBIN WRIGHT
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
There’s a scene in Robin Wright’s Land, where I related to her character in many ways. She plays Edee, a woman who has lost so much and it’s obvious that she decides to just give up. She lays on the cold ground of her cabin and wants to fade away. Those feelings of loneliness and the inability to control that pain is real. The first thought for me during an episode of depression is to break down and give it all up. Luckily for our main character, a man and women pass by, arriving in time to rescue her. It’s everything that happens after, her revival and recovery, where the focus in Land becomes about the positive things that we get from living. It doesn’t make it completely better or easier, but finding a purpose, connecting with another person, is exactly what saves her. Land is an excellent story of escape, isolation, surviving on your own, on your own terms, and finding your true self through it all. It’s also about two lost souls finding one another, especially when the world can constantly feel cold. Land is a character study, quite similar to Nomadland, but it’s not about living on the road, this is about finding purpose in the wilderness, discovering a way to live off this Land.
This is the feature directorial debut for Wright, who had already proved herself directing episodes of House of Cards before this, but here it feels personal. The screenplay, written by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam, is a simple one: a woman has lost someone, something, and makes the decision to live in an isolated cabin in Wyoming. That description of isolation is the entire purpose of the narrative structure. There’s very little dialogue and Land becomes a practice of observing Edee’s life. She learns to fish on her own, she learns to hunt, uses an outhouse for the bathroom, builds fires, and rations her food. This is what she wanted. This is her way of coping. It’s not all easy, it becomes incredibly dangerous, and even worse the longer she’s there. Living any other way does not seem to be an option. For Edee it is this way or death.
For a movie of this caliber there needs to be two things done right for it to succeed. The acting has to be spot on and the cinematography needs to be gorgeous. In Land you get both. You see gorgeous visuals of the mountains, pine trees, and the beauty of nature on full display. Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski seems to be stepping back from his previous work, but capturing the green trees, bright white snowcaps, and gorgeous sunsets is not a lesser accomplishment. It’s more point and shoot, but damn does it look good. The other factor is Wright’s performance, which is measured and honest, while her chemistry with co-star- Demian Bechir as Miguel, the man that comes along to help Edee, is incredibly endearing. The two develop an honest and understood relationship in the woods. He has also had a difficult past, something which is revealed in time, but the connection these two make, over gentle conversations about catchy 80’s tunes, their love for dogs, and what it means to live off the grid, is a beautiful snapshot of a new friendship.
The first half of Land is eerily similar to J.C. Chandor’s Robert Redford in a capsized boat film, All is Lost. That is another film about isolation, a person getting their mind off the worries of the world, only to be met with the unexpected chaos of nature. The second half of Land becomes a story of misery loving company, where Edee and Miguel seem perfect for one another, yet it plays out like a tug of war between two personalities. Both are afraid to loosen up, let the other person in, and it’s understandable, as they emotionally can’t afford to put themselves in those positions of vulnerability ever again.
By the end, Land succeeds with well paced direction from Robin Wright, her gentle acting, a loving rapport with Bichir, and a narrative that feels oddly cathartic. That’s because Land is never boring and incredibly rewarding in its messaging. And although the ending feels messy and slightly disappointing, it’s not the lasting memory I have of Land. Wright’s work allows us to escape to a place of peaceful bliss and find comfort in the reality that everyone is struggling in their own personal way. Some run off to a cabin in the woods. Some seek comfort from others. We are all just trying to make it on this Land.
LAND IS IN SELECT THEATERS FEBRUARY 12TH
Written by: Leo Brady