From the beginning of director and actress Robin Wright’s “Land,” the audience is offered a series of emotions that are in stark contrast to the beautiful, scenic beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Indeed, while we are introduced to the overwhelming grief, loneliness, hopelessness and teetering self-destruction of Wright’s Edee, we are shown idyllic and therapeutic scenes of majestic forests, sweeping landscapes and babbling brooks.
“Land” tells the story – albeit one without much detail – of Edee, who tells her therapist she can’t be around people. “They only want me to be better,” she says. This gives us a hint that Edee is suffering from some monumental grief, which we get only brief glimpses of as we follow Edee to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere. She desires to be completely alone, even throwing out her cell phone as she prepares to drive to her new destination. After making arrangements to have her rental car and U-Haul taken away, Edee is finally and ultimately alone; as she has wished. The movie is slow moving, simple, and somewhat predictable. Edee tries to survive, yet appears to not care if she doesn’t. Even after she is helped by locals who happen upon her cabin, Edee still makes it plain that she doesn’t need or want anyone around.
It is apparent early on to viewers that we’ve been here before. We know soon enough that Edee will eventually get to a “good place” and reluctantly receive much needed help. These aspects of the film are predictable and reminiscent of films like “Nomadland” and “Into the Wild.”
Demian Bichir arrives in the form of a low-key, no-nonsense knight in plaid armor with capable gear and large pickup truck. Much of his dialogue is laden with bumper sticker worthy, forcibly poignant phrases from Chicken Soup for the Mountaineers Soul. The somewhat slim screenplay, written by newcomer Jesse Chatham and veteran Erin Dignam (“Loved” and “Denial”) seems to be too neat and tidy of a package, save for a bit of a curveball ending.
Even though I had issues with the story itself, I must give kudos to both Wright and Bichir. Wright is alone and mostly without any words for a good portion of the movie, portraying a myriad of emotions through body language and facial expressions. Watching her eventually become able to notice her surroundings is powerful. Bichir’s performance is low-key and understated, yet he endears himself to us– especially when we are given more details about his life away from his mountaintop neighbor.
All in all, “Land” sort of slogs through its survival story intentions, trying its best to portray grief, pain and healing in a new and fresh way. While it has plenty of good tools and solid acting, it does not succeed.
“Land” receives an A for acting but C+ for the thin story. Watch it for the performances and scenery, but be satisfied with a big-screen television. Don’t purchase a movie ticket.
“Land” is rated PG-13 and runs 89 minutes (which is enough). It opens in theaters today.