Directed by Robin Wright.
Starring Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, and Kim Dickens.
A bereaved woman seeks out a new life, off the grid in Wyoming.
Not every debuting director needs to try and adapt the Great American Novel on their first time up to bat, but it’s a shame to see the eminently talented Robin Wright go behind the camera for such a pedestrian, standard-issue drama.
From the moment we meet Edee (Wright), it’s clear she’s a woman in turmoil, still working through the trauma of suddenly losing her husband and young son in a senseless tragedy.
To get away from it all, she ventures to a cabin in the Rocky Mountains in the hope of finding herself once again by living self-sufficiently in solitude, though soon proves herself unprepared for the realities of nomadic living.
Saved from almost freezing to death in a blizzard by local hunter Miguel (Demián Bichir), Edee’s chilly, walled-up defenses slowly thaw as her new acquaintance teaches her how to hunt and survive in the wild, yet without entirely shutting the outside world out.
As appealing as the idea of Wright playing a forthright wilderness survivalist undeniably is, there’s precious little here that hasn’t been well-mined in other similar films, most obviously the Reese Witherspoon joint Wild.
But Land‘s chief problem isn’t its unoriginality, it’s the industriously generic, flatly melodramatic treatment of the subject matter, clinging to soapy self-betterment tropes like its life depends on it. Simply, there’s little new or interesting on offer here, too often deferring to truisms the leads are so thoroughly overqualified to be speaking in the first place.
Even if you can accept what is a fundamentally saccharine story – and one which packs a movie’s worth of melodrama into its cloying final 10 minutes – as a piece of technical filmmaking this is also troublingly sloppy stuff.
Needlessly busy editing frequently strangulates scenes and moments that would benefit from breathing a little longer. With a mere 89-minute runtime, Wright clearly didn’t need to whittle this thing down so aggressively, but the editorial issues also extended to the cringe-worthy inclusion of shoehorned flashback cutaways.
Yet the lensing from DP Bobby Bukowski certainly makes the gorgeous most of the Alberta, Canada surroundings, milking the eye-watering natural scenery for every drop. A flighty musical score from Ben Sollee and Time for Three also has its moments, though at times also exacerbates the film’s offputtingly earnest twee-ness.
Surprisingly no-one, Wright is her typically committed self in front of the camera, uncommon though it is for an actor to be so wasted in a movie they themselves directed. Wright does about as much as anyone could with the slight material, enough that you almost wish she swung wholeheartedly for a dialogue-free one-woman-show survival movie.
Bichir is well-cast as Miguel, his disarming presence bringing some much-needed levity to the table, though the decision to give him his own tragic past mirroring Edee’s is one of the script’s most egregiously formulaic concessions. He and Wright at least enjoy some easy chemistry – especially when singing Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” together around a fire.
Kim Dickens, however, disappointingly only shows up for a seconds-long cameo as Edee’s concerned sister, adding nothing to the film beyond a perfunctory emotional tether between Edee and civilisation.
Despite its breathless editing and short runtime, this too often feels like wading through dramatic treacle, lacking compelling character development or any sort of fresh perspective on a well-trod scenario.
The thunderously corny Land sees Robin Wright self-squandered in a generic survival drama built from only the most basic, anodyne parts.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.