Land

In theaters Feb. 12

The Plot:

Edee (Robin Wright) is struggling with loss and her place in life. She eventually escapes to the Wyoming wilderness to live a life of basics, but things are never that simple. As she struggles to survive she is helped by Miguel (Demian Bichir) — a local who decides to do the right thing — and in so doing, creates a path for Edee to find herself.

Kent's Take:

“Land” is a simple title for a simple film. Defined by its raw edge and stunning beauty, “Land” brings both nature and it’s characters to life.

A tragedy in Edee’s life has spun her into deep grief. Her well of despair is so deep that she considers suicide. Deciding to search for her place in this world, she buys a cabin in the remote reaches of Wyoming and begins a journey of discovery that is both breathtaking and moving.

This memorable film is the directorial debut of Robin Wright. Already a skilled actress, now she flexes her cinematic muscles behind the camera to vivid effect. Writers Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam kick this story into gear immediately, and masterfully balance beauty with tragedy. As Edee struggles to learn survival skills, her frustration at failure and finding no answers to her emotional journey compound. Then she meets Miguel.

There is much balance in this film: woman vs. nature; beauty vs. tragedy; memories vs. presence; and life vs. death — and these warring elements all weave together to create a narrative that is raw, gentle and touching.

Wright and Bichir are perfect for their roles. Edee is a guarded ghost on the edge of giving up. Miguel is a quiet listener holding on to his own demons. Together, they become an anchor against a gale of raging emotions.

“Land” is a seemingly unobtrusive film that will surprise and satisfy a wide range of viewers. This would be a wonderful film to see on the big screen, as the cinematography is unforgettable — just like the film.

Lynn’s Take:

Self-quarantining is something we have had to adapt to these past 11 months, and have dealt with grief, collective or personal, as more than 450,000 lives have been lost in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic.  “Land” taps into those feelings through a personal journey of Edee Mathis, who has lost her husband and son.

Robin Wright, the fine actress whose breakout role was “The Princess Bride,” is inconsolable Edee, who goes off the grid and deals with nature’s relentless cruelty while she copes with such a devastating blow. She faces a string of calamities, as she is unprepared and not yet adept yet at survival skills in harsh conditions. It is miserable.

She is in constant sorrow, and that is about all we know, for the character lacks context for most of the movie and then there are predictable developments. Many close-ups indicate her anguish.

One day, near death, she is randomly rescued by Miguel (Demian Bichir), on his way back from hunting, and he brought his Native American nurse friend Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge) with him. Edee slowly heals and develops a bond with Miguel, another lost soul, but she is very private and does not reveal too much about herself.

The film’s third act is contrived, and the emotional payoff feels as if we are cheated. After hitting the notes – connecting after shutting one’s self down, learning to live with unbearable pain and all the feelings brought on by reminiscence, “Land” lets us down. 

The script by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam gets rather stale as it goes over well-worn cliches. Wright, who is such an intelligent, intuitive actress, deserved better material to work with, but as a director, she keeps the narrative moving. The film is a tidy 88 minutes, with little padding.

As seasons change, the majestic mountain view is a sight to behold. Of course, you would expect Big Sky Country to be awe-inspiring, with its proximity to three national parks, only the movie was shot in Alberta, Canada. However, cinematographer Bobby Bukowski takes advantage of the natural beauty and makes the vistas a stunning component.

A couple cover songs by British indie folk group, The Staves, are well-chosen to bracket the personal journey.

As she restores her well-being, Edee’s steps forward, each one seems hard fought. But “Land” has too little details to keep us thoroughly engrossed.