Synopsis: In the aftermath of an unfathomable event, a woman finds herself unable to stay connected to the world she once knew and retreats to the magnificent, but unforgiving, wilds of the Rockies.
Stars: Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Kim Dickens, Warren Christie, Brad Leland
Director: Robin Wright
Running Length: 89 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: It’s always intriguing to me to see what actors will eventually try their hand at directing. Some stars will go their entire careers without stepping behind the camera, preferring to stay in front of the lens and leave that responsibility to someone else. Others move to it naturally early on, even doing double duty which can lead to great success (like a number of Clint Eastwood films) or middling returns (see any Zach Braff movie for perfect examples) but it’s always the actors that come to the directing chair later in their career that tend to bring a sage sense of purpose to the piece. Now, let me be totally clear about that observation. That doesn’t always equate to a perfect film or even one that is ultimately worth your time, but it should at least warrant your attention because in this business, experience does stand for something.
It’s actually a surprise it’s taken veteran actress Robin Wright so long to helm her first feature film. With almost a dozen episodes of her Netflix show House of Cards under her belt, a proper movie was obviously next in line and Land turns out to be a smart choice as her debut. Instead of juggling too many spinning plates at once, Wright has opted for this small, intimate drama that’s nearly a one-character piece that takes place almost entirely in a single location. That gives her the opportunity to feel her way through the movie and take the time to get it right, leaving the more difficult directorial duties for another film later down the road. The result is a solid, if admittedly slight, showcase for Wright as a director and star.
An unknown trauma has led Edee (Wright, Blade Runner 2049) to monumental decision: she’ll leave her former life, family, and friends behind in favor of the isolation of a ramshackle cabin in the Wyoming Rockies. With no electricity, running water, or means of communication (her phone gets discarded soon after she arrives in the nearest town), Edee is choosing not only to go it alone but to make life as tough on herself as possible. Through wordless vignettes over her first few days, we get the impression Edee is not exactly the outdoors-y type, however this isn’t a story of a woman from the city triumphing over the harsh wilderness but a restrained piece about grief and how everyone deals with theirs differently.
Facing down her sorrow in a cabin that leaks and learning to live off the land as she goes, winter is right around the corner and the bitter cold nearly breaks her after a series of setbacks curtails what successes she has achieved up until then. Around that time is when screenwriters Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam introduce Miguel (Demián Bichir, Chaos Walking), first as a saving grace when Edee needs it most but eventually as more than just someone Edee can have outside contact with. Both seem to gain something from the other during their quiet discussions and a shared friendship develops, allowing Edee to see the value in her own humanity again.
With the changing of the seasons comes a changing in the tone of the film and before you know it, Wright has snuck in and changed the piece from a solo study on loneliness to one of kinship and reaching out to others…but only so far. I appreciated that Wright and the screenwriters manage to maintain a sense of truth to their central character throughout because it’s tempting in these types of stories of sorrow to be overly redemptive or apologetic for feelings/emotions. The loss Edee has gone through is enough to set anyone back a step or five and maybe following through with her plan to go it alone is what she needs, not as a defense mechanism but as the salve for her wound to heal.
Wright’s performance is strong as expected and she easily handles the rigors of wearing both hats. Working with cinematographer Bobby Bukowski to capture some incredible scenic vistas, it’s a small production but doesn’t wind up feeling like a small movie. Running a scan 89 minutes (with credits), Wright engineers her picture and her performance like a long-distance sprint and there is some kind of palpable energy coming at the viewer throughout which lets the film fly high, even when Land is at its most grounded.