Monday, February 26, 2024

Movie Review (Sundance): ‘Land’ Presents the Burden of Sorrow in a Cliched Fashion

Director: Robin Wright
Writers: Jesse Chatham, Erin Dignam
Stars: Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Kim Dickens, Sarah Dawn Pledge

Synopsis: A mourning woman seeks out a new life, off the grid, in the Rocky Mountains.


The new edition of the Festival of Sundance has seen its fair number of directorial debuts. One of the most anticipated of them all was Land, the first endeavor behind cameras by the well-known and revered actress, Robin Wright. Unfortunately, it has proven to be one of the least interesting films of the selection, with nothing new or gratifying to offer regarding grieve and resilience.

When the movie starts, accompanied by a beautiful score by Ben Sollee and Time for Three made up of pianos and violins, Edee (Wright) is arriving at her just-acquired cabin in the Rocky Mountains. On her way, she gets rid of her phone and makes sure that she stays completely isolated, a naïve decision considering that she has always lived in the city. Nevertheless, it is evident that she is going through a distressed moment, and maybe this crazy decision is a complicated way to auto-boycott her well-being.

As her new life starts to untangle, Edee is constantly transfixed by memories of her son and husband, who we can infer are connected to the reason that drove her to this isolated place. Now, they start to fill the cabin and maintain her in a perpetual state of sadness. Still, she tries to acclimate herself to this new way of living, in which she is failing miserably.

Things become trickier when winter arrives and Edee is completely unprepared. On the brink of dying, she is rescued by Miguel Borras (Demián Bichir in charming mode), a hunter that was nearby and sensed something was wrong, and Alawa Crow (Sarah Dawn Pledge), a nurse that urges her to go to the nearest hospital.

Still stubborn to stay in the cabin, Alawa and Miguel adapt to her demands and help her get back on her feet. Soon enough, Edee and Miguel – who has his own tragic story – become acquaintances. However, she is determined to keep him at an emotional distance, while he is patient and caring enough to teach her to survive in the wilderness. What results is a warm relationship filled with awkward interactions (she compares him to Yoda) and bonding moments through hunting. So much hunting. They develop a camaraderie while setting traps, skinning animals, and cooking them.

This aspect becomes unbearable when we consider that this woman is here by choice. She made the active decision of wrestling with the elements and killing animals to survive, instead of facing her trauma and pain in a less hurtful and selfish way.

The most impressive feature of Land is the beautiful scenery that it presents. The mountains offer breathtaking views and colors. The use of natural light works in favor and against the movie. While it allows us to admire the natural splendor with snowy images, saturated sunsets, and sunny lakes, it also prevents us from seeing anything inside the cabin. The previously mentioned score also makes wonders for the story, offering emotion and sensibility during the multiple moments of Edee’s torment.

While the performances are committed, the story does not offer anything profound or meaningful to digest in terms of grieve and loss. After a while, Edee’s story becomes uninteresting and predictable. Nothing happens that we have not seen before in movies about white people confronting their feelings and their past in natural scenarios.

With Land, Robin Wright makes a noble attempt of presenting a sensible story about loss and endurance. Nevertheless, a weak script prevents it from happening. While Bichir and Wright offer an emotional scene towards the end that allows us to know the source of their distress, it is too late in the story for us to care.

Grade: C



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