LAND

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Robin Wright

Stars: Robin Wright, Demian Bichir, Kim Dickens, Sarah Dawn Medge.

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Better known for her work as an actress, Robin Wright (from tv series House Of Cards, etc) makes her directorial debut with this slight and slow-moving survival drama about loss, grief, redemption. Land is more in the same vein as films like Into The Wild (directed by her former husband Sean Penn) and Wild (which starred Reese Witherspoon) in which the central character sets out on a journey of self-discovery following a traumatic experience and tries to find themselves by reconnecting with nature. But it lacks the gritty edge of another great survival in the wilderness tale like the revisionist western The Revenant.

Wright also plays the lead role of Edee, who, following a traumatic event, heads off, leaving behind the city life to take up residence in a small rustic and remote cabin deep in the Wyoming woods. There is no electricity, cell phone reception, water or heating in the ramshackle cabin. But Edee is out of her comfort zone and she does not find life in the wild always easy. She endures blizzards, lack of food, and even a marauding bear that wrecks her cabin. After she nearly dies following a severe blizzard Edee is nursed back to health by Miguel (Demian Bichir, from tv series The Bridge, etc), a friendly hunter, and Alawa (Sarah Dawn Medge), a local native woman.

Miguel tutors Edee in survival skills, teaching her how to fish and hunt and other essential skills necessary to survive in the harsh wilderness. Over the course of a year, a strong friendship develops between the pair, a friendship that helps them both to come to terms with the tragedies that have shaped their lives.

Land is a story of grief and isolation and healing and it has been shaped by a slim and pared back narrative. The film has been written by first time writer Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam (Submergence). Wright’s compassionate and deliberately paced direction allows audiences to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the setting and in Edee’s journey of self-discovery. This is visual story-telling, with lots of moments of silence and contemplation. The film was actually shot on location in Moose Mountain in Alberta, Canada. Land looks great thanks to the gorgeous cinematography from Bobby Bukowski (99 Homes, etc) whose lyrical lensing enriches the drama.

Like the Oscar winning Nomadland, this is the story of a woman finding herself in a contemporary American landscape that we rarely experience, and it is shaped by a strong central performance from its female lead. Initially Wright was only planning to direct the film, but soon came to realise that, given the nature of the production, she should also star in the film. She is on screen for most of the film and she brings an earnest, empathetic quality to her performance as the headstrong Edee. She channels Edee’s emotions largely through her facial expressions. Bichir has a nicely nuanced and sincere presence as the gentle Miguel. Kim Dickens makes the most of her small role as Emma, Edee’s worried sister.

★★☆

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