Land: Sundance 2021 Review
Land Synopsis: Edee (Wright), in the aftermath of an unfathomable event, finds herself unable to stay connected to the world she once knew. In the face of uncertainty, Edee retreats to the magnificent, but unforgiving, wilds of the Rockies. After a local hunter (Demián Bichir) brings her back from the brink of death, she must find a way to live again.
Basking in the transcendental glow of the natural world, Robin Wright’s directorial debut Land isn’t afraid to embrace a gentle spirit amidst award season’s array of dramatically bold options. While its developments aren’t particularly revelatory, the film echoes its own assured depictions of loss and recovery.
Land’s meditative quaintness benefits from Wright’s poised work behind the camera. She exhibits impressive composure for a first-time filmmaker, trusting her material’s strengths enough to avoid overly-sentimental style choices (the inclusion of tighter aspect ratios skillfully adds a sense of intimacy). Her favoring of immersive wide-frames and restrained score choices elevates the insular conflicts without adding an unnecessary flash to the scenery. The lively setting eventually evolves into a character of its own standing as the weather conditions thoughtfully mirror Edee’s mental state.
I can see Land being too languid for some viewers, but the central performance work always kept the patient plotting engaging for me. In her exploration of Edee’s damaged persona, Wright effectively encapsulates the character’s pains without needing to wail at the audience. Her subdued performance ably carries the narrative despite having few actors to play off of.
Land’s other significant co-star Demian Bichir makes a welcomed addition as a sage and kind-hearted hunter. Both actors share remarkably warm chemistry onscreen, transcending your typical Hollywood melodrama within the character’s easy-going comradery. It all builds to an intimately-drawn finale where the two stars showcase their emotive strengths.
Even with its strengths, there are some limitations to Land’s delivery. Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam collaborate on a script that is minimalistic to a fault. I don’t mind the lack of story developments, but the characters are left exploring their inner turmoil without much to work with. It’s a film that rests all of its laurels on its cast, and while they prove up to the task, it would’ve been nice to see the script pull some more weight.
Land’s slight delivery won’t break any new ground. Still, Robin Wright’s agreeable debut strikes enough genuine chords to whisk along patient audience members.