Dealing with grief can be a lonely endeavour even when surrounded by loved ones. While it is natural to recoil from others while processing the pain, Robin Wright’s feature directorial debut Land takes this one step further. For the film’s protagonist, Edee (Wright), isolation is a necessary respite from the suffocating city life that attempts to quell her grief with distraction. As Edee remarks early on, people are only concerned with you feeling better, they are not willing to take the time to understand your pain.
Feeling better is not in the cards for Edee, she wants to fully immerse herself in the unforgiving pain of loss. Ditching her old life, Edee abruptly buys a remote patch of land and a dilapidated cabin in Wyoming where she plans to live off the land. With a handful of supplies to get her started, she even sells her car and gets rid of her phone to solidify that there is no turning back. Live or die this is where she plans to remain.
With only a nature handbook to guide her survival, her inexperience really shows when unforeseen events place her at a disadvantage in the face of mother nature. What started off as a desire for peace and quiet begins to resemble a suicide mission. One whose timelines have been sped up unexpectedly. Fortunately, just as things look dire, Edee is found by a hunter, Miguel (Demián Bichir), and his friend Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge) who, as luck would have it, is a nurse. Seeing that Edee is clearly ill-equipped to for the harsh rustic life she has set up for herself, and personally understanding the demons that drives a person to an isolated life, Miguel decides to teach her the basics of hunting.
While there have been several films in recent years centred around women leaving society and embracing nature, Land forges its own touching path. The film is not so much about growth, but rather love. A love so powerful that even her memories feel as if they are living in the present.
Wright’s skilled directorial hand ensures one is always aware that Edee’s actions are driven her desire to preserve this love in the only way she knows how. She allows every scene to breathe, putting us in Edee’s sullen shoes each step of the way. Despite the film’s minimal dialogue, the script by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam does a great job of providing just enough information needed for one to connect with Edee and Miguel on an emotional level. There are glimpses of Edee’s sister Emma (Kim Dickens), who is clearly concerned for her sister’s well-being, as well as brief moments with her husband (Warren Christie) and son (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) in flashbacks. While Miguel’s own grief-filled background is shared in a few key scenes, it still packs a punch without ever feeling false.
This sense of honest emotion is present in every aspect of this touching film. The beautiful landscape, the film was shot in Alberta, Canada, feels like a character itself. One that serves as both a silent observer of Edee’s pain and a vessel for her to work through it. Land is an emotionally rich examination of the way love and grief are intertwined.