In her feature film directorial debut, Robin Wright presents Land. It tells the story of a woman named Edee (also played by Wright), who has suffered a terrible tragedy, and unable to face the world, she retreats to a remote cabin in the wilds of the Rockies. There, she fights for her own survival in the harsh and unforgiving wilderness and is eventually found by a hunter named Miguel (Demián Bichir), who brings her back from the brink of death.
There is something very beautiful about this film that spends the majority of the screen time showing us vast landscapes and reminding us just how remote Edee is. In a year of isolation and quarantine, Edee’s self-exile is more than just a locked door. She’s cut herself off entirely from the world. Upon arriving at the cabin she destroys her phone, hauls her car out, and settles in for what seems like a drawn-out suicide mission.
The film excels in the moments where we watch Edee struggle to survive. The wilderness, and its unrelenting nature, stops for no one. Edee, with her cans of food and lack of survival skills, is like David facing Goliath. She is a fish-out-of-water, woefully underprepared and inexperienced. It’s not overtly stated, but because she has the wealth to purchase this land and leave her life in the city to come here, it is assumed she comes from a privileged background. When Miguel saves her life later, he remarks that only a person who has never been hungry would choose starving as a way to die — it’s a succinct remark that pinpoints the kind of world that she’s come from.
But her survival and eventual flourishing are earned. We watch Edee crawl back to life through the bleak winter and then spring arrives. The cycle of the seasons creates a magnificent timeline as Edee learns to hunt and trap and fish and plant her own garden, the sun shining overhead, the leaves changing. Nothing is given to her, everything feels earned. There’s a genuine understanding that this experience has helped her in her grieving process. But it isn’t the isolation. Even though Edee wants no news of the outside world, her connection to Miguel signals the natural human need for companionship and connection.
Miguel teaches her how to live off of the land and the two develop a true friendship and emotional bond. Bichir is always a delight, and in Land, he carefully toes the line between gruff hunter and tender-hearted human. But, in many ways, Miguel, like many of the characters in Land exist to serve Edee in her journey. Yes, perhaps Edee also helped Miguel in her own way, but in this story, she is the one who needs saving. Alongside Miguel is Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge) a Native-American nurse, who is there when Edee is found by Miguel. She seems to be a long-time friend of Miguel’s, but we get snippets of moments with her. We learn bits of Miguel’s story and how close he is with the tribe, but it’s mainly on the sidelines and feels barely fleshed out.
But despite its flaws, Land is still an enrapturing film. It inspires awe and respect for nature while telling a story about healing and death. Wright and Bichir bring together two characters who have faced tragedy but have found some meaning in life after the trauma. They are a well-balanced pair, and even their unspoken scenes bring nuance to their somewhat sveltely-developed characters.