Review: “Land”

Robin Wright has proven herself to be an incredible and popular actress starring in numerous iconic films and television programs, but for the first time she has stepped into the director’s chair leading and starring in a new film called “Land”. Sporting an extremely small cast and a short run time of just under 90 minutes, “Land” sees Wright play a broken woman named Edee who, after a family tragedy that took her husband and child, isolates herself in a remote cabin. After a near death experience, she meets a man named Miguel (Demián Bichir) who helps her regain her will to live and learn to survive in the wilderness. Visually stunning and embracing a concise but resonant story, “Land” is an easy and meaningful viewing experience that could have and should have done a little more to take advantage of all the great things it had to offer.

Screenshot Courtesy of Focus Features

“Land’s” premise is pretty simple. Wright’s Edee suffers from depression and a feeling of helplessness after the loss of her husband and son, the cause of which we eventually learn by the end of the film, and escapes society by isolating in a remote cabin. Eventually she regains her will to live thanks to help from a stranger named Miguel. Much of the film is confined to the cabin and surrounding woods where Wright is center stage as both the star and director turning in another fine performance in a career full of them and enoguh cinematic flair to prove her competence as a filmmaker. Her costar Demián Bichir is also worthy of praise as Miguel and what I liked is that through their bonding Edee and Miguel never become romantically connected, more serving as good friends and confidants than anything else. The core theme of the film is finding a new will to live and survive in the wake of immense personal tragedy using the familiar journey of someone escaping into the wilderness as its main format. In that sense “Land” can come off as a bit familiar and cliché, especially for fans of movies like “Into the Wild”, but for me “Land” never felt overly derivative. It has its own charm and style to it that gives it a unique enough identity.

Screenshot Courtesy of Focus Features

The cinematography and scenery in this film is gorgeous taking full advantage of the wide array of seasons and backdrops within its wooded setting. Sadly, the film spends too much time on exploring the beauty of its surroundings and not enough time on expanding the depths of its narrative. A lot of time is spent settling on long shots and focusing on Edee’s exploration of the environment around her. While we do get plenty of time examining the growing relationship between her and Miguel, Edee’s insistence that nothing from the outside world be brought it keeps them from exploring the depths of their personal struggles beyond very minor and subtle conversations. Still, there’s a scene where Miguel talks about his nieces which opens Edee up to at least one detail of Miguel’s life from outside of the woods revealing that as much as she wants to escape the world as a whole, she still values family and relationships in some way. I do wish we could have seen more of this worked in throughout the story, maybe showing Miguel attempting to convince Edee to let her guard down. We get a few other small moments including Miguel and Edee bonding over his taste in music, but I feel there was more potential in this idea than just utilizing this character growth in only a handful of situations.

Screenshot Courtesy of Focus Features

Where this struck me the most is in the end where things feel strangely rushed after the movie that takes its time to the point of feeling sluggish for the first hour. All of a sudden things seem to be pushed into overdrive leading to another tragic moment that brings Edee and Miguel closer together. It’s touching to be sure and strikes at the core themes of the film that brought these two wayward souls together to save each other, but it also ups the drama to a level much higher than the rest of the film transforming the conclusion from one of closure and self-discovery into an effective but, honestly, typical ending for a movie like this. That’s not to say I hated the ending, I just felt like it didn’t mesh with the tone and pacing of the rest of the film making the final revelations feels jarring and forced to further the characters’ personal stories in the final few minutes when there was plenty of time for that kind of development that was underutilized in the second act.

Screenshot Courtesy of Focus Features

“Land” is a touching film exploring the personal journeys of two people whose fates bring them together to remember what it’s like to find the will to live in the face of uncertainties and while it has plenty of moments worthy of praise I can also see how some would find it a bit hollow. The performances of Robin Wright and Demián Bichir are commendable, and “Land” proves that Wright is a skilled director, but the story lacks a lot of meat at its core and fails to do enough with its heartfelt themes and touching character moments. It’s a gorgeous movie with great backdrops and striking cinematography, but for a nearly 90-minute movie it does feel like a slog spending more time relishing in its visuals and the characters’ brooding than expanding on their evolution as people. Still, it’s a short enough experience with enough well crafted moments and sincerity that I consider it worthy of recommendation.

GRADE:

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