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Land (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

LAND (2021)

Starring Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Sarah Dawn Pledge, Kim Dickens, Warren Christie, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Brad Leland, Jordan Bullchild, David Trimble, Rikki-Lynn Ward, Mia McDonald, Barb Mitchell, Dennis Corrie, Valerie Planche, Laura Yenga, Randolph West, Darin Grisdale, Darren Poirier, Thomas Komarniski, Shawn Lee and Edmund Gee.

Screenplay by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam.

Directed by Robin Wright.

Distributed by Focus Features. 89 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Land is something of a one-woman show.

Robin Wright not only stars in Land, but it is her first feature film as a director. (She had also directed ten episodes of her old TV series House of Cards.) However, just being the lead actress and director is not why – to a large extent – Land is a one-woman show. It is because for long stretches of the film, Wright’s character of Edee is the only human being on screen. In fact, only one other actor in the film, Demián Bichir, has more than a handful of scenes in this nature drama. And even he is on the screen for well less than half of the running time.

We meet Edee when she is at the end of her rope. She has been living in the city for decades and she is in the midst of a severe depression. She has survived some kind of tragedy – it is not explained exactly what happened until the very end of the film, but it appears through memories and flashbacks that she had a husband and son who are no longer in the picture. Then again, perhaps they are merely hallucinations.

At this point she is miserable and contemplating suicide. Her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) is trying to help her cope but seeming to have little luck at it. Emma begs her not to hurt herself, although the best reason she can come up with against Edee’s massive sense of fatalism is “Please don’t hurt yourself – for me.”

Edee decides to move out of her city dwelling into a remote cabin, which seems to have special meaning for her. (It is never quite explained why or how, perhaps her father owned it, or she and her husband and child had once visited there, and she had good memories of the trip.

She moves into the ramshackle cabin, and it is impossible to know if she is going there to live or if she is going there to die. On the plus side, she brings a lot of supplies, which intimates that she is planning on sticking around. However, she does not bring a car, has no phone or electricity and she is basically cut off from the world, which means that if anything were to go wrong, she would be completely helpless.

Of course, with nature, something always goes wrong.

After a rampaging bear destroys most of her food, and frigid weather nearly kills her, she is found unresponsive by a passing hunter named Miguel (Bichir), who sticks around to nurse her back to health when she refuses to go to the hospital. He then offers to help her hunt and learn to survive in the wilderness, and though she makes it clear that she moved there to get away from people, a cautious friendship is born.

And that’s it basically, Edee learning how to live off the land. Interestingly, there is a recurring motif with Miguel teaching Edee the words to the 1985 Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” One of the lines which they must go over twice is, “Turn your back on Mother Nature.” However, Land keeps showing the audience that you cannot turn your back on nature, or you will die.

Whether Edee regains her will to live from this trial by fire she has decided to put herself through – well I’ll let you find that out yourself. I will say that the scenery is stunning, and the acting is first rate. (It’s particularly nice to see Bichir back in a serious role after making a sidetrack into genre blockbusters like Godzilla vs. Kong and The Nun.

Wright’s acting effortlessly centers the film, and her work behind the camera is also spot on. Land received critical acclaim when it was released earlier this year, however due to limited theatrical availability from the COVID pandemic, it did not quite connect with the audience it deserved. Now that it is being released on video and streaming, hopefully that slight will be rectified.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: May 9, 2021.


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