• 29 May - 04 Jun, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

In Robin Wright’s conventional, competent directorial debut, Land, the actor takes us somewhere we know a little too well. Edee (Wright), is an urban-dwelling woman whose grief has distanced her from society, as grief often does, making her crave solitude, choosing self-inflicted actual loneliness rather than the more uncomfortable alternative – feeling lonely when there are so many others around. So she packs up and moves to a remote cabin in the Rockies, without any way of contacting the outside world, and tries to start a new life, alone.

In Land, Wright decides to tell her story in the most straightforward way possible, without any real energy or singular style, relying solely on the barest of bones to keep it all together. As an actor she’s skilled at taking on characters whose restraint hides something more complex but there’s not enough bubbling under the surface in Edee to keep us engaged (she’s defined by her trauma and little else). We know all too well that the tragedy that led her here will be teased with flashbacks and then revealed in an emotional finale. She’s strong enough to make it work for a while and there is a simple sort of satisfaction to watching her grow more accomplished at living in the wild. But we remain vaguely invested because of her commitment as an actor rather than her ability as a director, a dual role made even harder by a mostly rote script from Jesse Chatma and Erin Dignam.

For a film that so often chooses quietness over noise, when dialogue does arrive, it’s discordantly heavy-handed and, after a solid start, with the script seemingly sticking to Edee’s dogmatic isolation, a sort of semi-love interest is lazily introduced, played well enough by Demián Bichir. As Edee reaches her low point, in comes a handsome, similarly aged saviour, Miguel and their friendship-relationship edges the film into even more mechanical territory – guess who’s also suffering from a great loss?

With grief being the driving force of Edee’s character and the film at large, there’s not enough specificity in how it’s experienced or spoken about to fill the empty space, a sort of generic TV movie-level view of how someone processes loss. There are stabs at something knottier, such as an all-too-brief discussion about Edee’s privilege or the repercussions of one’s selfishness but they don’t lead anywhere substantial or strengthen what’s essentially a character study of a character not really worth studying.

– Compilation