TL;DR – A film where profound sadness and haunting beauty intersects on the mountains of rural Wyoming.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of the film.
Land Review –
There is a genre of cinema that is sometimes derogatory referred to as a vanity project. This when a star gets enough clout to be able to direct their first film and then casts themselves in the lead role. These are usually overly dramatic works hoping to buy into that Oscar love. However, every now and again, you get a film that cuts through that noise and shows a real talent both behind and in front of the camera. With Land, we get just such a film and a phenomenal directorial debut from Robin Wright.
So to set the scene, we open in Chicago with Edee (Robin Wright) in a therapy session, trying to talk about why she is alone with her pain and why she refuses to share it with anyone. She is there out of her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) insistence, who is scared that her sister might self-harm. Edee instead decides to sell everything she owns, rents a car and drives all the way to rural Quincy, Wyoming. Here she buys a cabin off the beaten track that was already off another beaten path to be alone from everyone. But living with no running water, electricity, or phone has more challenges than first encounters, especially when winter starts.
I need to make it clear right from the start that Land is shot in a particular style and vibe. It is a more brooding style, letting the film rise as if it is puff-pastry in the oven. This is why I love movies like Arrival and why I loved Land. However, this is not a style everyone gels with. It is a film where you have a slow emersion of the emotions and then a sharp jab right to the feels when you least expect it.
One thing the film does well is show off the beautiful landscape of Wyoming or, in reality, Alberta, where they filmed it. Every moment is taking the best of the environment and putting it on screen. We get to see the climate in summer, autumn, winter, and spring, each with its own dangers and beauty. The first shoots of spring bring hope, but the leaves starting to fall bring this level of dread. It is the intersection of haunting and beauty that helps sell the emotion of the film. This is, of course, supported by the music that charts the emotional growth throughout the film. However, I will say that this is a film that almost weaponises sunsets throughout its runtime.
At the core of this film is the exploration of grief, and this is where our two characters Edee and Miguel (Demián Bichir), find themselves. You don’t need to know what caused the pain to know that Edee is suffering from a significant loss and struggles to process that grief. This emotion builds and builds throughout the film, and I found myself crying several times in the third act, and from what I heard from the people around me, I was not the only one. This emotion would not work if the acting were not there to support it, but even though this is a tiny cast, everyone is there to give it their all. One of the things I liked the most was how many of the conversations between Edee and Miquel are nonverbal, but it still carries the weight it needs.
In the end, do we recommend Land? Yes, yes, we do. This is a film that is both beautiful and deeply sad. That is a combination that won’t work for everyone, but I found it profoundly affecting. The acting and cinematography sell the emotion that washes over you in waves. If you liked Land I would also recommend Into the Wild.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Land
Directed by – Robin Wright
Written by – Jesse Chatham & Erin Dignam
Music by – Ben Sollee & Time for Three
Cinematography by – Bobby Bukowski
Edited by – Anne McCabe & Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
Production/Distribution Companies – Cinetic Media, Nomadic Pictures, HanWay Films, Flashlight Films, Big Beach, Focus Pictures & Universal Pictures
Starring – Robin Wright, Demián Bichir Sarah Dawn Pledge, Warren Christie, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Brad Leland & Kim Dickens
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: na; United States: PG