Written by: Jesse Chatham & Erin Dignam
Starring: Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Sarah Dawn Pledge, Kim Dickens, Brad Leland
Going out and connecting with our most primitive side allows for a level of simplicity without the added worries we’ve learned to live with in modern society. An approach many take when they go out camping in the hopes of just getting away from it all. Land utilizes this premise but adds the wrinkle of the person in question partaking in this activity with the intent of never going back, which allows for a simply made but moving viewing experience.
Following a tragic event in her life, Edee (Robin Wright) decides to buy a lodge in the cold mountains of Wyoming where she intends to spend the rest of her days. With absolutely no knowledge on how to survive in these conditions, she puts herself in peril before receiving the assistance of a random man, Miguel (Demián Bichir).
Land very much follows the famous saying of “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” In this case, it happens to be with a woman trying to potentially end her life. With Edee’s decision to stay out in this cabin during a Wyoming winter, it becomes quite obvious she does not intend on going back when she asks her seller to drive off with her vehicle. This would mean, she’s leaving herself without a way of communicating with others, no car to get anywhere and several feet of snow around her. This comes from a woman who has never lived in these conditions. Yes, it most certainly does sound like a death wish. Initially shrouded in mystery, this film sparingly disseminates the reason for her losing her will to live as the main element this feature wants to speak on.
Part of this journey is the experience in the Wyoming winter, which she desperately does not know how to navigate. From not being able to hunt for food or even create enough insulation and warmth to sleep through each night, she puts herself in quite the dangerous predicament, pushing to the point of her nearly dying. Maybe it’s what she wants out of this experience, but it begins the wonderful friendship she builds with Miguel (Demián Bichir) as they share in each other’s grief while espousing many important survival lessons.
Having Robin Wright and Demián Bichir act opposite of each other is another one of those instances where we did not know we needed it and now cannot imagine why it has not happened before. They build such a wonderful rapport together knowing enough mystery exists between their lives to the point where Edee does not necessarily want to know of anything happening in society. She seeks for this dynamic just for him to casually stop by where Miguel teaches her the ropes of basic survival. With this expectation, the two actors shine in carrying the emotional weight this film wants to push around with Bichir, in particular, bringing the necessary warmth to counterbalance Edee in this important life journey.
As expected as the selling point, the weather plays an integral part in the story by creating this incredibly cold atmosphere for these characters to navigate within. These snowy movies generally leave this impact, but Edee’s struggles further accentuate it where you just know she’s freezing, which then gets transferred to us. It should, perhaps, put to bed the idea that anyone could just head out and take on what she does in this feature. A fool’s errand, but the coldness also plays into the film’s aesthetic with the brisk blues and whites dominating the atmosphere Edee has elected for in this next stage of her life. It mostly certainly achieves what it sought out to do.
Working as a feature directorial debut for acclaimed actor Robin Wright, this certainly shows her finding her groove in this new role. While not exactly showy or overly impressive, she, like many other actors turned directors, loves to emphasize the work of the actors in this feature. It allows for her and Demián Bichir to shine but leaves the rest of the feature to be a bit lacking in comparison. Not bad work as a director, by no means, as I look forward to whatever stories she wants to take on moving forward.
Operating as a tale working through grief and how one could plausibly move forward, Land works well overall as a feature. Mostly held down well by the acting duo, this feature hits its emotional beats fairly well and provides an opportunity to appreciate what it takes to survive in that particular environment. A cold-feeling film with the warmth coming from the characters and the experiences they share, this certainly should be appreciated for its success.