Directed by: Robin Wright
Premise: A grieving woman (Robin Wright) sells her possessions and buys a cabin and a large plot of land in the wilds of Wyoming. She struggles to survive and befriends a neighbor (Demián Bichir).
What Works: There is a whole genre within American storytelling about characters leaving society and setting out into the wilderness. Land fits into that tradition and the moviemakers proceed with an understanding of how this kind of story works. Edee, played by Robin Wright, has run away from society as a way of coping with grief. About a third of the picture is about Edee’s relationship with the wilderness and the filmmakers take an admirably evenhanded regard for the natural world. The landscape is beautifully photographed and the picture captures the quiet splendor of nature. But Land also acknowledges the indifference of nature; the movie does not sentimentalize the wilderness and the filmmakers don’t offer idealized platitudes about the restorative properties of nature. Robin Wright is the only actor on screen for long stretches and she carries the movie. As both director and lead actor, Wright finds ways to communicate this woman’s story and her interior life without resorting to narration or clumsy exposition. In a turn of events, Edee comes to know her neighbor, played by Demián Bichir. At this point, Land switches gears. Edee learns to have a meaningful relationship with another person first by accepting his assistance and kindness and later by revealing her own vulnerabilities. Although Bichir’s character is a bit one-note, Edee’s growing friendship is heartwarming without getting maudlin and the movie possesses an agreeable niceness that emerges over the course of the story. This film is ultimately about the importance of social connection and Land enacts the departure-initiation-return story formula but without overstating it.
What Doesn’t: Land only runs eighty-nine minutes but it nevertheless feels padded. The film has quite a few extended sequences of Edee juxtaposed against the landscape while contemplating life. This gets repetitive and the filmmakers lean on the beautiful scenery to compensate for a lack of action. Edee is a passive character especially throughout the middle of the picture as she becomes neighborly and Bichir’s character teaches Edee how to survive in the wilderness. As a protagonist, Edee doesn’t really act with volition until the ending. It’s a satisfying conclusion but Land’s exploration of grief and recovery and our relationship to nature remains mostly on the surface.
DVD extras: Featurettes.
Bottom Line: Land is a satisfying story of grief and recovery. The film’s superficial qualities are offset by its brevity and Land offers a compelling enough character study of a woman coping with grief and isolation.
Episode: #550 (June 13, 2021)