Directed by: Ali Selim
Premise: Just after World War I, Inge (Elizabeth Reaser), a Norwegian woman, emigrates to rural Minnesota to be with Olaf (Tim Guinee), the man promised to be her husband. Upon arriving she finds herself ostracized from the townspeople and cannot be married to Olaf until she learns to speak English.
What Works: Sweet Land is an immigrant story and a love story and it succeeds in both areas. The film does not make many new road in its genres but rather centers the drama on its characters, developing them within the genre framework. As a result, the conventional story has a lot of color and texture. The film features a lot of humor, most of it deadpan, that helps to humanize its characters. Aside of being a romance and an immigrant story, Sweet Land is also a historical film in the best way; Sweet Land takes the past and makes it relevant to the present in ways that are extraordinary. Keen viewers will pick up on the political undertones of the film that are struck so skillfully that they are poignant but not preachy or overdone.
What Doesn’t: The frame narrative of Sweet Land is a little distracting and in the end unnecessary. The main narrative of the film is strong enough that it does not need the surrounding present tense story, although it does aid the film in achieving a certain amount of nostalgia and sweetness.
Bottom Line: Sweet Land is a smart film that is very funny. There is an innocence and good heartedness to the picture that is endearing rather than sentimental.
Episode: #117 (November 12, 2006)