Land (2021)

Directed by Robin Wright
Written by Jesse Chatham & Erin Dignam

For the longest time, there has not be proper representation in film for women, certainly not so in the director’s chair. 2020 felt very much like a monumental leap forward in that regard. Not only were some of my favorite films from the year directed by women (Chloe Zhao, Emerald Fennell, Regina King), but overall it felt as though I was seeing more films directed by women. That brings me to Land. Robin Wright has had an incredible career, from The Princess Bride to Forrest Gump to House of Cards. She is an incredible performer and artist. And yet, this late in her career, Land is her directorial debut. This is at once both great and horrible. Perhaps she didn’t desire to direct for the better part of her career, but perhaps she never had the opportunity. With Land, she gets a chance to tell a story from her point of view, and that should not be undervalued. The world of movies needs more diverse voices. More women, more people of color, more opportunity.

Edee (Robin Wright) has just undergone a tremendous trauma in her life, losing her husband and son. Feeling lost and disconnected from the world, she decides to leave the city for the mountains, where there is no cell signal, no internet, no connection to the rest of the world at all, including people. With a stock food and the necessary tools, she buys an old cabin off the beaten track. Her life is hard, but rewarding, and most importantly isolated. But after an unfortunate encounter with a bear, she loses most of her supplies, and with no contact with the outside world, and no one checking up on her, she is left for dead. Luckily, a local hunter (Demian Bichir) happens upon Edee, nursing her back to health. The two form a friendship, as Miguel, the hunter, teaches Edee how to hunt and fend for herself in the wild.

Akin to films like Wild or Into the Wild, I guess Land really only lacks “wild” in the title. Wild Land? Anyway, I think the parallel between these films is quite easy, and Land does very little to distance itself or set itself apart from those film in any significant way. Receding back into nature to find oneself has long been a popular movie trope, and for good reason, it usually works. For Robin Wright the performer, this is an excellent showcase of her abilities, as single character films often are. She has a certain presence and communicates not just her grief, but also her relief to be spending her time in what I would call a paradise: nature. But when Demian Bichir appears, the film goes to a different level, allowing these two great performers to create a beautiful and meaningful friendship.

The concept of films like this are fairly simple, and as I mentioned before, we’ve seen it before. Instead, the joy and meaning is found in simply spending time in these places, spending time with these people. The reflection of our world, and specifically our place in it is perhaps too high falutin a form of entertainment for many, but for those who enjoy spending time in nature, and the practice of meditation and reflection, Land is another good example of how to do this type of film. Wright crafts a character, both as performer and director, that is human. Edee is sympathetic, but flawed. She is brave, but also afraid. The cinematography is beautiful (how could it not be, the mountains are beautiful). It may be nothing special, but spending time with a movie like Land is well worth its runtime.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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