Like the character she plays in “Land,” Robin Wright made some serious decisions about her big-screen directorial debut.
Instead of keeping its action focused, she uses a vast outdoor canvas to tell the story of a woman who leaves urban life for a cabin in Wyoming.
The vistas are gorgeous – it’s impossible not to see what a strong painter Wright could be – but the situations are brutal.
To restart her life, Wright’s Edee Mathis gets back to nature, learning how to live on her own, provide for herself and appreciate the silence.
It’s a rather rash decision but one, we quickly learn, was prompted by outside forces.
There, in countless scenes, she drinks in the natural beauty, nearly chokes on its brutality. She tries to chop wood, can’t find adequate food to eat and, often, has nowhere to retreat for help.
Then, a hunter (Demian Bichir) shows up, gives her more than a few pointers and helps her cope.
The two bond in an unspoken way, but this isn’t the start of a beautiful relationship. There’s trouble there, too, and a hint of what is about to come.
Unlike Reese Witherspoon’s “Wild,” “Land” isn’t a test of wills. Unlike Frances McDormand’s “Nomadland,” it’s not a career alternative.
“Land” is very much one woman’s final place to turn. Wright – as both actor and director – isn’t afraid to dirty her hands. She digs into the “new” world, cries out in pain and finds an inner strength she didn’t know she had.
Robert Redford has played characters like this several times. But it’s a new direction for Wright.
It’s also an interesting “reinvention” of her own persona.
While the story is thin on plot (particularly since books have taken the same concept and given them more surprise), the visuals are not. Even when the land seems exceptionally harsh, it’s beautiful – which hurts the “woman on her own” concept.
Bichir is charming as the one person who can lull her out of this death wish, but his presence is mere plot device. Without him, there’s no reawakening – or hope.
“Land” ends as you might expect. Wright, however, has the ability to move forward – both as an actress and a director.
This resets her career in ways she could only imagine.