Moving away from life in the city for some much-needed peace and quiet has bestowed cinema with a lot of incredible stories. It has also made the solace in the wild feel like a pretty done-to-death sub-genre of its own. Robin Wright’s debut feature film ‘Land‘ doesn’t break any new grounds within the said plot progressions. But it’s just the right amount of moving with sentiments that steam out of a real sense of place. The result is a strong character study that is another showcase of how constantly engrossing Wright can be as an actor.
Early on in the film, we see the isolated existence of Edee (Wright herself). She has undergone what seems like a grave personal tragedy. Unable to really have a life that isn’t clawing up to the last straw in her life (i.e her sister Emma), Edee’s depression has gotten up close to her. Hours of personal therapy has also not been a great remedy thus far. When her therapist questions her “What are you feeling?” Edee replies that “It is difficult to be around people because they want you to be better.” Basically, being alone has become really painful as her present reminds her of a life she used to have.
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Land really begins when Edee – A cosmopolitan lawyer by profession, decides to completely cut her off from her life in the city. She buys a property that is far away from her bustle of the contemporary world. Basically, she is trying to escape the grief that has consumed her entire livelihood. Shutting everyone off is her way to deal with the ‘care she doesn’t have a place for’ right now. Being in the wild may just be the way to fight her internal turmoil. Initially, she finds it difficult to settle in. Asking the owner to take away her means of travel also seems like a step that has left her in shambles.
When this new life there is rigged by nature’s odd ways, her suicidal thoughts set right back in. That is until, Miguel (Demián Bichir) – a drifter who just happened to notice her little house finds her in an almost defunct state. He selflessly and patiently healths her back to normal, giving her the right amount of care and space. Later, he teaches her how to hunt and make a living in the wild and intermediately disappears. Slowly yet steadily Edee’s life starts taking a shape of its own. The mess she thought she was in, also starts clearing up.
Land is basically about finding a reason to live. It is about holding on to the last ray of hope that shines at your doorstep. In generic terms, Wright’s debut is a quietly powerful film about survival and resilience. The relationship that Edee and Miguel form is just too pure to look away from. They connect to each other due to some shared emotions but Wright makes sure she never presses the buttons of emotional trajectory. Every single progression in the narrative feels earned and intimate, making a strong case for human connection and its cathartic, life-affirming quality.
For a directorial debut, Wright showcases great chop for character building. A large part of her film is spent on sequences of absolute silence where the audiences are left with the protagonist. It is believable that Edee’s sadness is so huge that it can consume her. In spite of co-writers Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam’s choice of hiding the tragedy that Edee has gone through up until the end, we know that something in her has died and her choice to let her body slowly decay is probably the right one.
Wright is aided by a great editor duo of Anne McCabe & Mikkel E.G. Nielsen. They compensate a lack of newness to the narrative with a flow that maintains a quick back and forth between the dangers of the wild and its stark beauty. The cinematography is also gorgeous with matching shots of the incredible landscape and close-cut shots of characters being themselves. The score by Ben Sollee & Time For Three is gentle and doesn’t manipulate the viewers into feeling a certain way.
The direction is believable with the right amount of emotion and nuance. Edee’s will to die to her will to survial is ably handled. The connection between the two lead characters forms a strong core to this tale of resilience and Wright’s focus on their chemistry, their friendship, and their sort of YODA-esque mentor and prodigy persona is rightfully given a larger chunk of the film’s runtime. In spite of a sort of rushed final act that nudges to sentimentality, Land is overall an intimately told tale.
Of course, the success of the film is greatly endowed to Robin Wright’s incredible turn as Edee in front of the camera. She has managed to undermine the range of her character’s pain with great conviction. Though a solo show for most of the runtime, one simply can’t forget how great Demián Bichir is. We are all aware of Edee’s pain and her grief, but it’s through Bichir’s performance that we understand that there’s something bigger underneath the strong exterior that Miguel shows. This is the reason why, the final act – though rushed, feels well-tuned with the sensibilities.
Land is a film that truly understands how important it is to have genuine connections. It is an optimistic film in the face of extreme hopelessness and that’s enough for me to make a case for it.
‘LAND’ PREMIERED AT THE 2021 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
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Focus Features will be releasing Land in select theatres on February 12
DIRECTOR: Robin Wright
SCREENWRITER(s): Jesse Chatham, Erin Dignam
EDITOR(s): Anne McCabe, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
DOP: Bobby Bukowski
MUSIC: Ben Sollee, Time For Three
COUNTRY: UNITED STATES
RUNTIME: 89 MINUTES
LINKS: IMDB, ROTTEN TOMATOES