So as The Princess Bride is one of my favorite films, and Robin Wright my favorite actress from the movie, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Robin Wright was making her directorial debut Land as well as starring in the movie. Since I’m a huge fan, I greatly wanted to see the film, not only for the subject matter but also to see how Robin Wright did, not only as a performer but also directing. I felt like she knocked it out of the park, both as an actor and also directing. The film is quiet and introspective but also insightful and poignant.
Land starring and directed by Robin Wright, from a screenplay by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam, tells the story of Edee (Robin Wright) who leaves the city for the wilderness after a traumatic event, leaving behind only her sister Emma (Kim Dickens). Once there, Edee abandons all technology, her phone, truck and stays alone in the mountains. But after a near-death experience, with the help of a local hunter who saves her, Miguel (Demián Bichir), Edee must become comfortable with living again. After Miguel nurses her back to health with the aid of a local nurse, Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge), he teaches her to hunt and set traps, ensuring that she will survive. But along the way, she learns to do more than just survive, she begins to appreciate the beauty of the wilderness and re-awaken to joy. But will she be able to let others into her life or will she hold onto her grief?
Part of the beauty of this film is the simplicity. There are few characters and the story focuses almost entirely on Edee, her journey, and her pain. But that focus allows the story to shine and Wright does a fantastic job of spotlighting Edee’s struggles and her journey. When she travels to the wilderness, she comes prepared with food and supplies but she is far from mentally or emotionally prepared for the difficulties that await her. Her garden fails to thrive, her food gets destroyed by a bear, and she finds herself unable to hunt. Once winter sets in, things become dire for Edee. All of these events are highlighted by both the acting and the direction of the film. We are shown signs of Edee’s grief, her emotion over a small box, flashbacks showing us her family, and her unwillingness to reach out for help. All of these illustrate Edee’s pain, performed with subtle skill and without telling the audience all the details.
This is definitely a case of less is more. With so few actors, the performances stand out along with the landscape. The environment is a character in and of itself. Ostensibly set in Wyoming, most of the movie is actually filmed in Alberta, Canada, and a brilliant choice for the story. The characters are surrounded by beautiful scenery, mountains, lakes, and a host of wildlife. Even storms create an effect of solitary splendor, only adding to the idea of how isolated Edee is. Adding in a soundtrack with music that resonates and adds to the emotional journey that Edee takes, only highlights the beauty of the wilderness.
Part of what also aids the movie is the subtlety of it. It is at times raw and emotional, just like grief can be and this is matched by the landscape that surrounds the characters. It subtly works through Edee’s grief and pain in restrained and tender ways while she and Miguel connect in beautiful moments. The resolution of the movie is both poignant and heartfelt. The themes of grief and connection are performed to perfection.
While the filmography is breathtaking, it is the performances that highlight Edee’s story. Robin Wright is emotional, raw, and outstandingly good. She is powerful in her portrayal and brilliant in her direction. The chemistry between her and Demián Bichir is just breathtaking because it is natural and authentic. As the pair interact onscreen, they slowly develop warmth, laughter, and caring and there are just beautiful and caring moments of connection between both characters that demonstrate a real connection of friendship between the actors as well as genuine skill in portraying that connection for the story. With so few characters in the movie, Robin Wright’s performance is beautifully highlighted by that scarcity as is Demián Bichir’s.
While there was very little about this movie that I didn’t enjoy there is a slow pace to the film that might be a detraction for others. It moves slowly, especially in the beginning, and it takes time to build the emotional weight of Edee’s story. For me, that only adds to the draw of the movie. The very starkness adds to the emotions and Edee’s grief. The film has a quiet beauty, both in the landscape and the story that resonated with me, and the conclusion was perfect in illustrating Edee’s journey.
If you like films with emotional struggles and are character-driven, this film might be for you. Featuring Robin Wright, I found both her performance as an actor and her choices as a director incredible. She does a brilliant job of balancing both her roles in this film. While not as weighed down, Demián Bichir provides an equally talented performance and is the perfect balance to Robin Wright. The pair wring emotion from every scene and their characters feel genuinely connected. While quiet and introspective, the film demonstrates insight into one woman’s journey to move past mere survival and find a way to truly live again.
Rating: 4.5 lessons out of 5.
Official Website: Land | Official Web Site | In Theaters February 12th | Focus Features