It is kind of ironic that Robin Wright’s directional debut, Land, is being released in Australia on the same day as Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow because the two’s directional styles are alarmingly similar. Just like Reichardt has done throughout her career I have to say that Wright has delivered a masterpiece with Land.
The tale is simple – yet heartbreaking. Edee (Robin Wright – Forrest Gump) is a woman in turmoil. She is haunted by recent traumatic events to the point where she flirts with suicide every day. While she attends counselling sessions they don’t seem to be helping her at all, so in the end she decides to pack up her life and move to an isolated hut in the middle of the wilderness in Wyoming.
While Edee is determined to be completely off the grid, despite the warnings from locals, she finds that life is tough and soon has to accept help from local hunter Miguel (Demian Bichir – The Hateful Eight) to learn how to live off the land.
I found Land to be a work of true beauty. Not just because Wright and her cinematographer Bobby Bukowski (Arlington Road) manage to capture the American wilderness with its true beauty but because this is a simple exploration of the human soul and the emotions that it goes through. While Hollywood likes to talk about ‘strong female characters’ and then list the likes of Wonder Woman or Lara Croft what Land delivers is perhaps one of the strongest female characters we have ever seen grace the big screen.
Wright’s Edee is strong, passionate and wants to overcome the extremely traumatic hand that life has dealt her. As an audience member I found myself taken on that journey with her. I love the fact that the screen-play doesn’t just hand deliver all the answers to the audience throughout the film. The audience do have to ‘work’ during this film – miss one but of dialogue and you may miss something important to Edee’s life and yes you will be taken through an emotional wringer with this film. There were times when tears came to my eyes during some of the film’s ‘tougher’ moments and there were times that I chuckled as well. I found that Land is heartbreaking but also amazingly uplifting as well.
Wright’s directional style only enhances this film even more. Like Reichardt she tells the story in a pure naturalistic way. Even as a rookie director she knows that you don’t need dialogue to tell a story, a look or even the environment around an actor or actress can sometimes say more than a whole page worth of dialogue. The fact that Wright already knows that with her first film tells me that she is going to be a director that is going to be exciting to watch over the next couple of decades.
I think what I liked about this film though is that nothing feels forced. Wright along with the work of screenwriters Erin Dignam (Loved) and newcomer Jesse Chatham avoids every single Hollywood cliché with this movie. Going into the film I was wondering whether the inclusion of Demian Bichir in the film would see the film dip into a Mills & Boon style romance, but luckily my fears were misplaced.
Land is very much the perfect film. A gripping storyline delivered with amazing performances from both Wright and Bechir and scenery that makes you want to escape to the wilderness yourself sees Land become the type of film that stays with you for a long, long time. I found the power of this film to be a truly amazing cinematic experience and if you loved Reese Witherspoon’s Wild then this film is a must see for you. Land is a cinematic masterpiece.