Directorial debuts from actors/actresses fascinate me. I’ve said it before, but what an actor or actress chooses to helm is always worth paying attention to. Here, Robin Wright is moving from small-screen directing to the big screen (or our current COVID-19 version of it) with Land, an intimate little drama that she also stars in. Playing as one of the titles at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, as well as hitting theaters on Friday, this movie is an elegant and strongly helmed work from Right. I held this review a bit since it’s now week of release, but that says nothing about the flick’s quality. In fact, we’re ending Sundance on a decidedly solid note.
Land has a terrific look to it, alongside some strong work in all regards from Wright. Her acting and directing give this the simple strength that keeps this from ever being a slog. While the story is a little thin, watching her in action more than makes up for that.
Edee (Wright) has recently suffered through a tragedy, one which has emotionally removed her from the world. Choosing to physically remove herself from society, Edee retreats off the grid, to a part of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. Her plan is to live off the land, letting her bereavement be her only company. Initially, it seems hard yet doable. However, it doesn’t take long for nature to pose a huge challenge to her. Before long, she’s low on surprises, struggling to stay warm, and likely headed for a demise in the wilderness.
When all seems lost, with Edee on the brink of death, a local hunter named Miguel (Demián Bichir) arrives in the nick of time. Along with his family, they begin to nurse her back to health. Edee still doesn’t have the will to live, but slowly, conversations with Miguel inch her back from the bring. Of course, it’ll be up to her to fully confront her demons, and that will require a brave step forward.
Robin Wright has long been a tremendous actress, and here we see more evidence of that. Along with Demián Bichir, Wright anchors a very small cast that includes Kim Dickens, among others. Wright slowly but surely adds layers to her character, making Edee someone we don’t fully understand until the end. Bichir does the same, though his supporting role is arguably the heart and soul of the picture. Once he enters, things pick up in a way that elevates the film.
Unsurprisingly, Robin Wright’s filmmaking is impressive, something she no doubt honed helming episodes of House of Cards. The screenplay here by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam is somewhat simplistic, but she elevates it. Wright and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski capture some beautiful images of nature. Into the Wild, this is not, but Wright is more than at home with this style of cinematography. The movie may have benefitted from a slightly more layered script, but directing and visuals rule the day.
Land marks a solid welcome to feature filmmaking for Robin Wright. If you like her as an actress, prepare to like her as a director, too. Wright’s performance, along with Demián Bichir’s, leaves an impact, so as a way cap off Sundance coverage for 2021, it does so in elegant fashion. Hitting screens this weekend, you can see what I saw recently at the festival.