After a devastating loss, Edee Holzer (Robin Wright) decides to leave the world behind and live alone in nature. Colt (Brad Leland) leads her in to the Wyoming cabin she’s bought from him, one which has no utilities and hasn’t been recently maintained, and is alarmed when Edee, who has no experience living off the grid, asks him to have someone pick up her rental car and U-Haul, leaving her with no transportation. After a series of misadventures finds her on the brink of starvation, Edee’s discovered by Miguel Borras (Demián Bichir) who nurses her back to health and commits to teaching the woman who rejects his companionship how to live off the “Land.”
Laura's Review: C+
Robin Wright makes her directorial debut with a clichéd story that shows her capable of directing actors and shepherding a nice production. What she hasn’t done is buff out some of the more questionable aspects of the script (by newcomer Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam, who wrote and directed a couple of obscure 90's films with Wright (and Sean Penn)). The film features stunning scenery (Alberta, Canada stands in for Wyoming) and some nice moments, but there isn’t a single surprise to be found here.
Edee, who ditched her cell phone (and its call from her sister Emma (Kim Dickens, an always welcome presence)) in the last town she stopped in, seems to have thought of a lot of things, stocking in all the right kind of supplies. She sets to work cleaning out the cabin, including broken window panes, but quickly develops blisters attempting to saw wood and almost gets swept away in a raging river when she drops her plastic water jug. Sitting by the river fishing, she watches a handsome man and his young son and it is easy enough to figure out this was her family, Adam (Warren Christie) and Drew (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong). Real disaster strikes when a bear catches her inside the outhouse, then ambles into her cabin, destroying absolutely everything. Forced to try her hand at hunting, Edee finds herself unable to shoot to kill.
We know exactly what effect the kind and patient Miguel will have on Edee, even as she grows more self reliant under his tutelage. Fortunately Wright and Bichir are good enough actors to make us care about both of them. But there are so many niggling problems with “Land” that it is difficult not to consider it a disappointment. For example, when the cabin leaks in the rain, Edee chooses to sleep with her head right next to the metal bucket catching the drops. When Edee’s recovering from near death, Miguel promotes her from both to ramen noodles, a food known to stress your digestive system, something he would surely know, especially as he works with a doctor, Alawa Crow (Sarah Dawn Pledge). And while we can dismiss the fact that Christie seems quite a bit younger than Wright and that woman today have children in their late forties, when we learn that Miguel has suffered a similar loss, it is such a neat parallel it screams of screenwriter contrivance. The cleverest thing in the script is what brings Miguel to Edee’s door in the first place, evidence of someone much more experienced in the wild.
Speaking of wild, “Land” will remind many of “Into the Wild,” directed by Wright’s ex, but it is nowhere near as good a film. Wright’s debut behind the camera (she cut her teeth directing episodes of her TV series ‘House of Cards’) shows promise and is a handsome production, but isn’t a film likely to linger in the memory. Except maybe for that bear.
Focus Features is opening "Land" in theaters on 2/12/2021.