Sundance Movie Review: Land

The feature directorial debut of star Robin Wright gives us an understated yet powerful look at grief and isolation
By Sean Blanford

Over the past four decades, Robin Wright has given us dynamic and powerful performances both on the small and big screen. With Land being her feature-length directorial debut, she has proven that she not only has the chops in front of the camera but behind it as well, creating an understated yet powerful look at one women’s inner-crises after a tragic event upends her life. 

We first meet Wright’s character Edee with her UHaul trailer packed moving from Chicago to the mountains of Wyoming, taking over a mountain cabin that is as in the middle-of-nowhere you can get. She gives up her car because of her distrust and neurosis of being around others, and in doing that she is truly alone. With her blistered hands from chopping wood and difficulty with dealing with the elements, she ends up unconscious in her cabin and is later found by Alwa (Sarah Dawn Pledge) and Miguel (Damien Bachir), nursing her back to health and Miguel becoming a mentor and trusting figure that Edee needs most. Their relationship is purely plutonic, thankfully never crossing the line into an unnecessary romance. Instead, we have moments that are humorous to break the tension, then have you reaching for your tissues in the next. 

The biggest strength in the film from the combination of the direction of Wright and the cinematography of Bobby Bukowski and the chemistry between Wright and Bachir. Having only twenty-nine days to shoot the film, it leaned on taking advantage of the picturesque environment, whether it be in creating wintery conditions or sunny days. You feel Edee being chilled in her cabin unable to keep a fire started or her terror being trapped in an outhouse by a bear. How Edee became this self-isolationist could have been something where she knows how to do everything already, but seeing her struggle makes the story that much more interesting. 

Overall, this is a well-paced beautiful film that juggles so many different hot-button topics like gun violence, death, and mental health. This has been a festival filled with stellar performances and top-level directing, Land rises to the top of that heap. 

Grade: A-
Land premiered at Sundance on January 31st, 2021, distributed by Focus Features and produced by Big Beach, Flashlight Films, Nomadic Pictures, and Cinetic Media. Image courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Author: Sean Blanford

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