A stunning tale of exile and redemption set against astonishing landscapes. In theaters.
“Everybody wants to rule the world” Sung along in Land, from Tears for Fears.
Ethan Hawke brings in those lyrics as well in Tesla last year, making it an anthem for lonely souls seeking more control of their modern lives. Edee (Robin Wright, who also directs) encounters that song and sentiment during her self-exile in the Wyoming mountains in Land as she struggles with life and death in a failed attempt to control a narrative that includes the loss of her husband and son to a mass shooting.
A week ago, I witnessed two other women against the odds with The World to Come, where smart ladies weather a brutal winter in 19th century Upper NY State and inadequate husbands. Both filmmakers have captured the reality of survival in hostile but beautiful surroundings, where the environment is metaphor for the storms within.
Yet, like the hostile living, the women fight fate to control their lives, not without pain and suffering. Edee forsakes life only to find it stalking her in the form of a Good Samaritan, Miguel (Demien Bichir), who not only saves her life but gives her life through his generosity of heart for all living things.
Edee must learn to survive (she has forsaken phones and cars) by killing animals and accepting humans, both challenges for a self-determined exile. The story is minimalist, needing not more than cinematographer Bobby Bukowski’s stunning landscapes and Trevor Smith’s production design, which is at home in the city as well as an old mountain cabin with previous haunting lives.
Escape to stunning landscape? see Land, but don’t think life can be left behind. Robin Wright’s expert direction, for her first helming, never lets us forget that our humanity, and the need to connect with it, will never leave us.
Land is a fascinating existential journey that shows the melancholy unity between the living and the dead, as James Joyce pointed out long ago. The connection that brings life: Miguel explains to Edee when she asks why he's helping her: “You were in my path.”
Be exhilarated by a story about exile that doesn’t work. Land, although indulging some cliched tropes, is beautiful, harrowing, and ultimately rewarding.
Director: Robin Wright
Screenplay: Jesse Chatham, Erin Dignam (Submergence)
Cast: Wright (Unbreakable), Demian Bichir (The Nun)
Run Time: 1 h 29 m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com