How someone deals with grief can vary wildly person to person. While one person might be inconsolable, unable to handle even the most basic tasks, another could be motivated to make changes in his or her life that were previously unreachable. And there are innumerable ways in between those two extremes, as can be seen in the new film Land.
It follows Edee (Robin Wright), who, after an unspecified tragedy involving her husband and son, buys a remote cabin in the mountains of Wyoming. As seen in brief glimpses with her sister (Kim Dickens), she’s purposefully trying to remove herself from any vestige of her former life. She’s so deep in her despair that she barely cares if her isolation results in harm to herself.
At one of her lowest points, she meets Miguel (Demián Bichir), a hunter who stumbles upon her cabin. The two slowly but surely develop a friendship, as Miguel teaches her how to hunt, among other survival skills. Through their bond, Edee learns that not only is life still worth living, but that she still has much to offer others if she can find a way to give again.
Directed by Wright, who’s making her feature directorial debut, and written by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam, the film has a steady and consuming pulse to it. The motivations of both Edee and Miguel are strongly hinted at throughout, but enough remains a mystery for most of the film to keep the plot moving forward.
Although she seems far from naïve, Edee is unprepared for what exactly living life off the grid will entail, and this self-imposed punishment can be hard to take. While the film lets the character off the hook a bit too easily at certain points, the sparseness of the landscape and Wright’s intimate filmmaking, both as an actor and director, keep the intensity of Edee’s situation high.
What makes the film work best is the relationship between Edee and Miguel. The depths to which they infiltrate each other’s lives feels as strong as possible without the two becoming romantic. The film has very good reasons for not pushing the characters in that direction, and it’s all the better for not going down that road.
Owing to her extended run on Netflix’s House of Cards, it’s been a long time since audiences have been treated to a lead movie role from Wright, and she does not disappoint. There are few other actors her age who have both the vulnerability and the strength this role requires, and she owns every part of it. Bichir is a perfect complement for her, bringing a graceful masculinity to his part.
For whatever reason, Land has not garnered the attention that other films have during the extended awards season, but don’t let that fool you. It is as worthy of your moviegoing dollar as anything else thanks to two great performances and insightful directing by Wright.
Land is showing exclusively in theaters. It will debut on premium video on demand on March 5.