LAND (Sundance2021) – Review by Rachel West

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Robin Wright sets out into the wilderness in her directorial debut feature, Land.

Premiering as part of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival line-up, Wright stars as Edee Mathis, a woman who is grappling with the aftermath of a tragedy. Though her grief is not explicitly explained at the outset, one gathers she’s been deeply traumatized by the unexpected death of her husband and young son. Packing up mementos of her life into a cardboard box, Edee loads a U-Haul with supplies and heads into the mountains in search of a solitude in a remote cabin.

Making the desolate cabin and surroundings livable, Edee is a practical woman but lacks any true wilderness training. Armed with several instruction manuals on gardening, hunting and fishing, she’s determined to make her new life work for her until winter weather proves challenging. Enter Miguel (Oscar-nominee Demián Bichir), a kindly hunter who takes her under his wing to teach her the ways of the land. He too has experienced loss and slowly forms a bond of friendship with Edee, gradually edging her out of her state of grief.

The idea of escaping reality and going off the grid into the wilderness is certainly not a new concept. It’s easy to see how comparisons to Wild or Into The Wild, or to an extent, Nomadland, may arise in co-writers Erin Dignam and Jesse Chatham’s script. But Land deals with the nature clichés in a surprisingly real way thanks to Wright’s deft performance. This is not a glamourous role for the actress who spends the majority of her screen-time in flannels and looking every bit of a woman living in the wild. In long, near wordless stretches, Wright is the only character on screen, letting the breathtaking mountain backdrop envelop her.

Its clear that Wright as a director is taken by and inspired through the beautiful setting around her. Land was filmed in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada and she uses the natural landscape to further illustrate not just Edee’s physical and symbolic isolation, but her awe of the land as she frequently cuts to scenic shots of nature around her.

Wright certainly honed her directing skills over the years by spending several episodes behind-the-camera on House Of Cards, but Land lets her truly explore her craft in what’s a successful first feature.

Land premieres at the virtual Sundance Film Festival on January 31 before being released in theatres on digital on February 12.

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Rachel West

Rachel West

Rachel West is a Toronto-based producer for ET Canada with a B.A. in Film Studies. A Tomatometer-approved critic, she's a regular contributor to That Shelf. She's interviewed everyone from Michael Fassbender to Miss Piggy and has reported live from TIFF, the SAG Awards, Comic-Con, and the Golden Globes, among other events. Her film writing has appeared in publications including Globalnews.ca, The National Post, Cineplex Magazine, Letterboxd, and more. Find her on Twitter: @rachel_is_here