By Lynn Venhaus
Self-quarantining is something we have had to adapt to these past 11 months, and have dealt with grief, collective or personal, as more than 450,000 lives have been lost in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. “Land” taps into those feelings through a personal journey of Edee Mathis, who has lost her husband and son (But not in COVID-19 times).
A grief-stricken woman (Robin Wright) chucks modern conveniences and city life for a primitive cabin, complete with outhouse, in Wyoming. Edee Mathis has decided to live in isolation, so she chucks her cell phone, has someone pick up her rental car and proceeds to carve an existence in the wilderness.
Wright, the fine actress whose breakout role was “The Princess Bride,” wrings out emotions as inconsolable Edee, who goes off the grid and deals with nature’s relentless cruelty while she copes with such a devastating blow. She faces a string of calamities, as she is unprepared and not yet adept yet at survival skills in harsh conditions. It is miserable.
She is in constant sorrow, and that is about all we know, for the character lacks context for most of the movie and then there are predictable developments. Many close-ups indicate her anguish.
One day, near death, she is randomly rescued by Miguel (Demian Bichir), on his way back from hunting, and he brought his Native American nurse friend Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge) with him. Edee slowly heals and develops a bond with Miguel, another lost soul, but she is very private and does not reveal too much about herself.
The film’s third act is contrived, and the emotional payoff feels as if we are cheated. After hitting the notes – connecting after shutting one’s self down, learning to live with unbearable pain and all the feelings brought on by reminiscence, “Land” lets us down.
The script by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam gets rather stale as it goes over well-worn cliches. Wright, who is such an intelligent, intuitive actress, deserved better material to work with, but as a director, she keeps the narrative moving. The film is a tidy 88 minutes, with little padding.
As seasons change, the majestic mountain view is a sight to behold. Of course, you would expect Big Sky Country to be awe-inspiring, with its proximity to three national parks, only the movie was shot in Alberta, Canada. However, cinematographer Bobby Bukowski takes advantage of the natural beauty and makes the vistas a stunning component.
A couple cover songs by British indie folk group, The Staves, are well-chosen to bracket the personal journey.
As she restores her well-being, Edee’s steps forward, each one seems hard fought. But “Land” has too little details to keep us thoroughly engrossed.
“Land” is a drama directed by Robin Wright, who also stars, with Demian Bichir and Kim Dickens. Rated PG-13 for thematic content, brief strong language, and partial nudity, the film runs 1 hour, 29 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: B-. In theatres Feb. 12.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat daily newspaper. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association.