“LAND” is the directorial debut of actress Robin Wright who we adored so much in the very dark TV series, “House of Cards”, where she plays the U.S. First Lady who later on becomes the President. She got her start in directing when she helmed some episodes in the hit series.
Now, she tries doing a full length-film in “Land” where she also play the lead role, a woman who decides to leave her life in the city to live alone in a rundown cottage up in the mountains. Shot in the Rockies of Wyoming, the first thing you’d notice is the untamed beauty and magnificent grandeur of the American wilderness.
At first, we don’t know why Edee (Robin) chose to forsake the civilization she was once connected to live in isolation in an unforgiving back-to-nature kind of existence. Slowly, we become aware that she is in the throes of deep grief, but we’re not given the details of what’s exactly causing her dolorous pain.
You just have to deduce this from the intermittent snippets of flashbacks showing a man and a boy that must have been her husband and young son. She has a sister in the city (Kim Dickens) who tries to help and console her for her loss, but she just cannot make herself go back to her normal life.
Determined to be alone and away from the rest of humanity, she even discarded her cellphone on the way to the cabin in the mountains that she bought. She has no running water and gets it from a stream. The place also has no electricity. She took with her several canned goods and other provisions then even asked the man who helped her to take her vehicle away with him.
It’s like she has nothing to live for and intends to commit suicide as she fights the elements all by herself, with her having no means of escape whatsoever. For a long while, Edee is the only human we see on screen. She chops wood, cooks by herself and hides when a huge bear comes along and steals most of her foodstuff. Thank goodness she didn’t suffer the same fate of Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”.
Having no previous experience on how to survive amidst a harsh environment, she’s not at all prepared to cope with her chosen survivalist adventure. The place is visually stunning, but we wouldn’t want to stay there, specially when it starts snowing and the cabin becomes extremely cold. So there she is, eating her last canned food, frozen from the chilly weather and suffering from hypothermia, all about ready to cross over to the great beyond.
But help comes in the form of a hunter, Miguel (Demian Bichir, who we’ve seen in so many films lately, including “Kong vs, Godzilla”), and a nurse (Sarah Dawn Pledge) who fortunately chance upon her. They help revive her and rescue her before the merciless elements got to finish her off.
Edee asks Miguel, who has his own sad story: “Why are you helping me?” And he says: “You were in my path.” And that’s enough for them to have a platonic friendship that, luckily, doesn’t lapse into romance. The welcome warmth of human interaction helps Edee on her road back to restoration not only from the icy elements but also from the frozen emotions of her grief-stricken psyche damaged by her excessive mourning.
“Land” is obviously meant to be a character study and an examination of a soul in grief. Robin Wright has been in showbiz since the 80s and has appeared in memorable films like “The Princess Bride”, “Forrest Gump” and “She’s So Lovely” with her ex-husband, Sean Penn. Now 55, we believe she chose “Land” to be her first directorial film thinking that it’s a remarkable project worth her time and talent.
There’s no doubt Robin’s performance as Edee is quite effective. She’s present all throughout the movie and is credible in conveying the character’s inner struggle as well as her personal battle with the uncompromising onslaught of Mother Nature. But honestly, we were not truly moved by her story.
When she started facing problems in her life amidst the ferocious landscape, we couldn’t help but say: “You don’t like modern conveniences? You want a primitive life? O buti nga sa’yo, ginusto mo yan, e.” Surely, there is a better way of coping with heart-wrenching grief other than cutting yourself off from the world. And it’s hard to totally sympathize with Edee as we are kept in the dark as to what exactly is causing her misery.
The choice not to show us more of Edee’s back story prevents us from fully understanding her predicament, unlike in that other film about a grieving mom that we reviewed recently, “In the Fade”, where we are given enough reason to comprehend and care why Dianne Kruger is so devastated.
As the film ends, we can’t help but feel that :Land: is frustratingly lightweight and that there is a missed opportunity in the way it was told. It could have been given more emotional substance to make it a more touching, more profound story of a lost soul trying to reconnect with humanity. Or are we just expecting too much?