Robin Wright’s directorial debut Land has audiovisual gems and tense moments but fails to hit most of its emotional targets.
The premise of Land revolves around Wright’s character Edee breaking away from her comfortable urban life after a tragedy occurs and escaping to the American wilderness, Into the Wild (2007) style. The connections to the survival film above are prevalent here both tonally and visually, which is not bad in the latter case. The movie is brilliant from a visual perspective. The cold of the Wyoming wilderness gets into your bones, making you yearn for moments that give any respite from the bitter chill. It is very effective and efficient filmmaking, and for large portions of the first hour or so, it is a very compelling character study.
Wright’s character Edee undergoes quite the struggle as her ill-equipped approach to living among nature shows. After nearly dying cold and alone, she is saved by the elusive Miguel (Demian Bichir), a hunter who happened to be passing by the area as she was nearing the pearly gates. Miguel’s presence is very typical of this kind of story and detracts heavily from the genuinely compelling survival story that follows Edee. He adopts the ‘teach you how to hunt and appreciate life in the meantime’ character tropes that we have seen all too often. While the use of that trope is still entertaining, it’s not as compelling as what we saw before the arrival of Miguel.
Wright and Bichir do carry a lot of this film on their performances, as the set pieces in this story are few and far between, and for a first time director, that is a very bold (and economically safe) approach to take. For this story to be as well rounded and well presented as it is for a debutant is nothing short of highly commendable. At the same time, there are narrative and character-based choices that don’t make this film anything extraordinary. There was potential right there at the start of the film, but it was unfortunately squandered to make way for a typical and unoriginal story.
Robin Wright does a phenomenal job carrying this film in front of and behind the camera. She and her co-star make it an enjoyable and tense watch. Despite needing a unique way of resolving the mysteries set up at the beginning of the film, Land is undeniably effective and will make the audience look at life a little differently after watching it.
This film was shot on location in 29 days.