Isolation is a concept that most human beings have become intimately familiar with over the past year. Dealing with the COVID-19 surge across the globe, most of us have been confined to our homes, left without familial closeness and interaction.
Robin Wright’s directorial debut, Land, taps into that feeling almost too well. Her character, Edee, is in a deep, deep depression following a life-altering event, and she finds herself unable to be around other people in any capacity. She flees to Wyoming (really Alberta!) to a remote cabin, not caring if she lives or dies. She gets rid of her car and seeks to have zero contact with the rest of humanity.
Sounds bleak. Is it?
Yes, especially throughout the first half. There are a lot of close-up shots of Wright’s pained face. She cries almost throughout. There is a sad score running through the film like a lazy river.
The weather — snowy, windy, unforgiving — also adds to this aesthetic. Everything feels cold and impenetrable, probably an intentional move by Wright to bring her mental anguish to the fore. Alone, she struggles greatly against the elements, which truly do not care one way or the other who you are or why you’re there.
Do things ever improve for her?
I don’t want to give too much away, but yes, eventually she gets her bearings with the help of local hunter Miguel, played by Demián Bichir. She reluctantly accepts his presence and help, and the pair develops a strong bond. This never turns romantic, thankfully, and Wright smartly keeps things on the friend/confidante level.
Why do you say ‘smartly’?
Actor directorial debuts are just that: first movies by folks who’ve only been in front of the camera, not behind it. Even as stellar an actor as Wright is not immune to the pitfalls of first-time direction. Clichés, self-indulgence and hackneyed dialogue sometimes hamper what could be a more effective movie, so if there was a romance between the two main characters, it would’ve gone over the edge.
How is the movie as a directorial debut?
Not bad, especially if you ignore the quibbles I mentioned before. There’s a certain empathy and emotion that oozes off the screen, and there are worse things to do with 1.5 hours than watch Wright. Certain moments are effective, heartfelt, even tear-summoning. The Alberta scenery is jaw-dropping, at times taking my breath away.
The movie’s biggest fault is its omission of Indigenous people. Clearly a large part of the population in the movie when Edee goes to town, they’re maligned to very supporting roles. There’s an unforgivable line when Miguel mentions how he delivers water to local Indigenous communities who don’t have any fresh water — right on the heels of us watching Wright struggle in a cabin with four solid walls, a fireplace, a mattress and other creature comforts.
Yes, Wright has to collect her own drinking water from a local river, but it’s gross to include a line like that while we watch a white woman with the resources to leave her home, her job and her life behind to “survive” in the wilderness. It might’ve been a better call to not mention that at all, and keep Edee in her own isolated environment.
So what’s the bottom line?
An honest and sincere work, through Land Wright emerges as a competent director. There’s plenty of work for her to do, but the message of Land is not lost: wherever you go, there you are.
‘Land’ will be available at home on demand in Canada for a 48-hour rental period beginning Friday, March 5.
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