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LAND (2021) review

February 15, 2021


written by: Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam
produced by: Allyn Stewart, Lora Kennedy, Peter Saraf & Leah Holzer
directed by: Robin Wright
rating: PG-13 (for thematic content, brief strong language, and partial nudity)
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: February 12, 2021


Having directed ten episodes of Netlix’s “House of Cards”, Robin Wright makes her feature-length directorial debut with “Land”, an emotional and contemplative drama that deals with themes such as loss, grief, and isolation. The actress not only helms this picture, she also stars in it, giving her an opportunity to delve into some weighty material and in turn delivering her best performance in years, possibly her career. The screenplay from Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam is understandably light on dialogue since it predominately requires an internal struggle from the protagonist. There is real beauty and poignant reflection in “Land”, and even if the third act tends to wrap things up in a rapid manner, it is nevertheless an impressive debut from Wright.

Wright plays Edee, an emotionally broken and distant woman wrestling with suicidal ideations. She is at the point where she wonders why she’s still around. Her distraught state is to the point where being around people is painful. Her sister, Emma (Kim Dickens), begs Edee not to harm herself, for her sake. Something her therapist mentions in the opening scene strikes a chord, that is if she isn’t around people she’ll be “alone with her pain”. When some people feel such immense loss and grief, they feel they deserve such isolated torment. Maybe that’s what’s going on inside Edee.



She may not have completely thought out her future just yet, but she has decided to leave Chicago and drive to Wyoming with only the bare essentials. She purchases a cabin in the mountains, throws her phone out and hands off her vehicle and begins to figure out what it’s going to take to live off the land. Living alone, she is left with her thoughts, which drift to memories she had with her husband and son. Although they are memories of a happier time, Edee can’t help but to be overwhelmed by them.

As much as she tries to get by each day on her own in the wilderness, unforeseen circumstances derail those plans and wear Edee down in every which way. She is found close to death in her cabin by a Miquel (Demián Bichir) a local hunter who winds up getting her back to health and over time winds up teaching Edee some hunting skills and survival lessons that not only help her regain a way to live, but quite possibly regain a will to live.

“Land” establishes from the start that even before Edee makes her way to Wyoming, she has already isolated herself, internally closed off and no longer finding any meaning in life after the loss of her family. Changing her geography from urban life to a rural location free of cellular reception, electricity and running water, doesn’t change her state of mind. She takes that with her to Wyoming and the goal is to take a shot at surviving or die alone, not necessarily to find a way to live. Her pain has clouded her acceptance of others in her life, but that slowly starts to change when Miguel enters it.



When Edee asks Miguel why he helped her, he simply replies that she was in his path. To him, helping Edee was a no-brainer, but she is still taken aback by his kindness and selfless act, not understanding that taking an opportunity to serve someone and give them a hand winds up eventually enriching both the one who received such help and the giver.

Once Edee is situated at her cabin, Wright and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski utilize the Alberta, Canada film location to capture natural beauty and the surrounding quiet tranquility. There are breathtaking panoramic shots and close up photography of trees that establishes a land ripe for Edee’s world to slow down, be still, and focus on her new environment. The dialogue becomes understandable sparse as we follow Edee clean out and prepare this old cabin with a nearby out house she’s purchased, with a folksy soundtrack from Ben Solee and Time for Three that takes over much of the film’s soundscape. It’s a place where Edee can be alone with her thoughts, which often return to a time when she and her family had made cherished moments in the outdoors. Yet, she is pulled back to the cold reality of life without them and decisions such as food, water, and warmth.



The bond that develops between Edee and Miguel is gradual, with the woman hesitant and preferring to be left alone. While she is grateful, she shares with Miguel her wishes to be away from people and to not be privy to any news from the outside world. Miquel respects her wishes, but offers to show her how to hunt and kill deer and after that leave her alone. She agrees and the pair learn to admire each other, with Edee learning not only how to kill for food, but also to cultivate a functioning garden. There is an evident underlying understanding Miquel has for the mysterious loss that Edee hints at and is reluctant to come outright and divulge.

The two souls may have more in common than either are aware and Miquel patiently provides the kind of interaction Edee doesn’t feel like she needs or deserves. Miquel adds some lightness into Edee’s world, as she likens his mentoring to that of Yoda (despite him never seen a “Star Wars” movie), and his penchant for repeatedly humming a classic Tears for Fears song is at first annoying to Edee and eventually endearing. Thankfully, at no point in the story is there a hint of heavy melodrama, nor is there any inkling of a romance developing between the two. They are simply kindred spirits, both of whom eventually share their own respective painful pasts with each other, maintaining a mutual appreciation.

Wright and Bechir work off each other well, as both characters come to realize how each has impacted their lives for the better and after a couple years out on her own, maybe Edee is ready to work her way back to civilization. Thanks to the natural and lived-in performances from these two actors, “Land” never feels manipulative or broad in terms of emotions. The third act of the story does feel rushed to get to its hopeful ending (which it earns), but it feels like some development for each character is missing somewhere. In its best moments, and there are many of them, “Land” is a journey of unexpected human rehabilitation, but in a pandemic, it’s kind of cathartic to see someone go somewhere far away from anyone and live off the land.





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