Grief, in all shapes and forms, is an impossible thing to overcome, if you ever do. It’s everlasting reach means it may take years, even decades, to find yourself in a place where you can be just “ok” with its all encompassing nature and try to move forward, even though its dark shadow always hangs over you. How you deal with, of course, differs from person to person: some are tearful forever more, some make jokes, some turn inward, others turn away and never come back, mentally and/or physically. Land, the directorial debut of Golden Globe Winner Robin Wright, delves deep into the seemingly never-ending pain of losing someone and the urge to flee.
Wright plays Edee, a grieving woman who is set on abandoning her bustling town – or any, for that matter – into the wilderness of the Wyoming mountains. We meet her getting rid of her possessions with her mobile phone, the last to go, gently discarded in the rubbish so she can truly go off the map. A few boxes of keepsakes from whatever she is trying to escape stay with her as she acquires a isolated home in the upper echelons of the beautiful, quiet surrounds of the woodlands. The terrain and surroundings, however, prove too much for her and only through a last-minute rescue from a local nurse (Sarah Dawn Pledge) and a compassionate local (Demian Bechir) – who she forms a friendship with over time – does she survive the bitter, killer arctic conditions of the winter, the metaphorical battle she faces in her never-ending pain.
For her feature debut, Wright certainly has an assured hand, with her brilliant work on Netflix‘s House of Cards – which the actress says was her “film school” – certainly helping her in many aspects here. Whether it’s the dramatic side, the human levity and, indeed, wonderfully capturing the almost unreal surroundings and their picturesque eloquence, Wright’s measured, confident direction, along with Bobby Bukowski’s stunning photography are enough to recommend this trip into the wilderness. She and Bechir, as the local Tears for Fears enthusiast, are both excellent throughout in thoughtful, tender performances.
Where it falls down, however, is in its screenplay which, although tries hard to bring a fresh perspective on its narrative, ends up following the well-trodden path so many have travelled. Grief is such a delicate, painful place to be but screenwriters Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam seem content to play safe rather than get messier in their approach, short-changing Edee’s true catharsis for something too simple and neat, particularly in its third act. There are some moments where they do succeed in this, but they are too sporadic to make the impact they would have hoped.
Drama | USA, 2020 | 12A | Sundance 2021 | 9th April 2021 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir. Robin Wright | Robin Wright, Kim Dickens, Demián Bichir , Warren Christie, Sarah Dawn Pledge