According to Marvin Gaye, there ain’t no mountain high enough. But Gemma Creagh begs to differ, as she reviews Robin Wright’s debut feature.
In her therapist’s office, with the sound of a cityscape simmering underneath, a devastated Edee (Robin Wright) admits that her grief has made it difficult to be around people. She can’t face the pressure of people wanting her to be ok. Escaping the city, she drives to the most remote place she can find, a dilapidated cabin in an isolated spot in the Rockies. With no car, no phone, no electricity, and nobody around for miles, she somewhat unsuccessfully attempts to trap game, fish, forage, and chop wood – all while being haunted by the memory of her husband and young son.
As a glacial winter descends on her unheated, unfortified shack, and a bear ransacks the last of her food supplies, Edee is left unmoving, half-frozen waiting for death… until she’s rescued by local hunter, Miguel (Demián Bichir). A Native familiar with the land, Miguel teaches her how to survive in the wilderness and the pair forge an unlikely friendship.
This simple, quiet story is based on a screenplay originally written by Jesse Chatham, who submitted it to the Nicholl Academy Screenplay Fellowship. From there it was picked up by Wright who brought Erin Dignamon on board as a co-writer closer to the production date. An earlier draft of the script is described as having a mall scene with a suicide bomber – something so ostentatious is deeply incongruen with the nuanced film that Land is.
The pacing is made up of several distinct sequences. These act as chapters, each with a different aesthetic and feel, that punctuate Edee’s healing process over the course of two years. Every shot is beautifully film, carefully constructed and captures the changing character of the mountains – quite a feat given that all four seasons were shot in 29 days.
It’s a surprising choice that the director is also the lead, especially in a film so heavily reliant on an emotionally charged performance to carry the narrative. However, according to interviews with Wright, that decision was made due to constraints on production. As a performer, she manages to reach those emotional depths for the majority of the film, and plays well opposite the warmth of her co-star Demián Bichir. Yet on a modest budget and a location shoot, wearing those two hats simultaneously can be a near impossible task. Had Wright more resources, the question remains just how much she could have achieved.
Overall, Land is a solid and timely film. Celebrating themes of redemption and human resilience, it captures the essence of the moment with no frills or fanfare.
In Cinemas from 7th June 2021