Woman finds salvation from wilderness in Robin Wright's simple but resonant 'Land'
The wilderness survival thriller has long been a male-dominated subgenre, though in recent years, more female-fronted films have emerged, including Reese Witherspoon’s “Wild” and the Shailene Woodley-starring “Adrift.” In her directorial debut, “Land,” actress Robin Wright crafts a film about a woman battling the wilderness, until she learns to live in it, not fight against it.
Working with a script by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam, as well as stunning Alberta, Canada locations (standing in for Wyoming), Wright directs and stars in this simple but resonant story about a woman who finds personal salvation in a remote mountain cabin among a punishing, yet nourishing landscape.
Edee (Wright) just wants to be alone. In an opening scene that briefly addresses her emotional state before the mountain, she informs a therapist that she’s unable to share with anyone in her life, because they just want her to be better. Edee doesn’t want to be better. She wants to be hurt. In this moment of desperation, a primal instinct takes over, pushing her toward the mountains abutting the Shoshone National Forest. She needs to be alone in nature to go through this, and whether or not she comes out on the other side seems irrelevant. She picks up supplies, tosses her phone in the trash and moves into a dusty cabin with no running water, electricity or a way out.
Edee, who doesn’t want to live, has put herself in a situation where it’s a struggle to survive, by design. If she freezes to death or dies of starvation (easy to do, in this cabin), she can fulfill the promise she kept to her sister (Kim Dickens). Edee’s trauma and loss are palpable, haunting her consciousness, but she’s not able to speak it aloud. It’s the solitude and silence she craves.
On this land, it’s a challenge to survive alone, which Edee learns the hard way. She accepts some guidance from a local man, Miguel (Demián Bichir), who teaches her to trap and hunt. Miguel is hurting too, and his quiet companionship and steady wisdom is exactly what Edee needs as he never probes beyond her emotional limits.
The film itself is quiet too, with Wright’s expressions and gestures speaking volumes about her emotional state. She’s often shot simply, in quiet repose, or performing all-consuming physical labor, set against the breathtaking vistas of this place, set to the music of cellist Ben Sollee and string trio Time For Three. The views are nature-made, but Bobby Bukowski’s cinematography captures them, and Wright within them, beautifully.
This necessary reliance on other people, as well as the tasks required to stay alive in this place, have an effect of working on Edee from the outside in. As she becomes more competent and confident in this existence, she begins to transcend mere survival and starts, indeed, to thrive. Fighting to survive reminds her that she does want to live, after all.
While “Land” doesn’t quite fit the solo female survival thriller label one might imagine it to be initially, it results in something much more profound, asserting that human connection is integral to healing, and that so are words of encouragement, love and understanding. While Edee may have sought solitude, her salvation comes from the human connection that crossed her path. “Land” is a resonant reminder of the importance of friendship in any and all forms.
Cast: Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Kim Dickens, Sarah Dawn Pledge.
Directed by Robin Wright.
Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes.
Rated PG-13 for thematic content, brief strong language, and partial nudity.