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LAND: AN IMPRESSIVE DEBUT FILM FROM ROBIN WRIGHT

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that any feature-length film that has earned Robin Wright’s complete commitment—as actress and director—would be worthwhile. But Wright’s film is more than merely competent: her bywords seem to have been simplicity and honesty. That goes for her moving performance as well as her treatment of the screenplay by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam. Land is a damn good movie.

This is a story of how one woman deals with grief: by moving to a cabin in the wilderness of a snowy mountain chain. She gives herself no options by discarding her cell phone and asking the realtor who drove her there to have someone pick up her rental vehicle. She is truly alone, and as she quickly discovers, utterly unprepared to fend for herself.

We care about this character’s plight without knowing much about her, or what has brought her to this fatalistic decision. That’s to the film’s advantage, as we spend little time re-enacting the events that caused her complete withdrawal from society. Time, and the introduction of two outsiders,  well played by Demián Bechir and Ssrah Dawn Pledge, help to fill in those gaps.

Bechir is a welcome presence. He, too, is a loner who earns Wright’s trust and teaches her learn how to hunt, fish, set traps—in a word, survive. It takes time for him to revel his backstory, as well, but he plays a crucial and unexpected role in her life. It’s a warm and well-calculated performance that helps humanize Wright’s extreme characterization. He wins us over just as he does her.

Wright has brought us a film that tells a good story in less than 90 minutes; for that alone she ought to be rewarded. There is no arbitrary reason one can’t establish characters, exposition, lead to a climax and conclude a story in that amount of time. Her collaboration with cinematographer Bobby Bukowski gives us an array of beautiful images that remind us—and the protagonist of the film—how much nourishment one can derive from the beauty of Mother Nature.

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