Someone looking on from the outside would likely say her choices didn’t make much sense. But to Edee, they were the only way to survive.
She had suffered a crushing loss and was drowning in grief. And so, she cashed out her life in a world filled with too many raw-edged reminders, threw away her phone, stockpiled canned goods and bought a deserted, dingy cabin on an inaccessible Wyoming mountainside.
No electricity. No running water. Nothing but an old crumbling outhouse. Living in those conditions may sound insane, but to Edee it was the only way to stay sane. Being completely cut off and isolated and surrounded by nothing but thick forests of trees, snow-capped peaks and beautiful mountain vistas was Edee’s only way to emotionally and mentally survive.
Of course, there’s also physical survival to consider. And on that front, Edee isn’t doing so well. Howling snow storms, destructive animals, and a lack of hunting and trapping knowledge can leave you starving and on the verge of death out in the wilderness.
That’s exactly where Edee is now, huddled on the frozen cabin’s hard wood floor. She too weak to get wood, too weak to start a fire, too weak to move.
And then the ice-covered cabin door crunches open. And a pair of snow crusted boots steps in. Survival, it seems, comes in many forms.
A passing hunter named Miguel saves Edee, having noticed on the way back from a hunt that her chimney was no longer issuing smoke. And after nursing her back to health, he promises to stop in occasionally—respecting her wish to stay away from people—and to teach her how to hunt and care for herself.
In fact, Miguel’s gentle and regular acts of self-sacrifice pave a path for Edee to move back toward more healthy choices. “Have you thought of what you want your life to look like moving forward?” he asks her. A nurse friend of Miguel’s gives of herself to help Edee, too.
Eventually we discover that the friendship Miguel and Edee establish helps them both in powerful ways.
A native American shaman waves smoke over a dying man’s bed.
We can draw spiritual lessons from Miguel’s self-sacrificial actions. It’s clear that selflessness is woven deep into his character. [Spoiler Warning] And we learn later that his choices are, in part, an expression of personal repentance.
During her isolation, Edee imagines seeing loved ones who have died.
Though it’s not intended to be titilating, we see Edee’s bare back and the side of her breast when she is stripped and wrapped in blankets in an effort to raise her core body temperature. She also stands with her bare back to the camera and washes herself. In another scene she lies down outside in a large tub of water. We see her bare shoulders, perhaps a bit of breast nudity (albeit very briefly) and legs.
[Spoiler Warning] Edee imagines her deceased husband crawling into bed with her and kissing her face and neck. She and Miguel, however, never cross any physical lines of friendship. He even sleeps in the back of his truck in the dead of winter out of respect for Edee and to avoid any misconceptions.
Life in the wild is hard. Edee’s hands become badly blistered from the work she does a with a saw and an axe. A large bear attacks the outhouse that Edee is stuck in and then enters her cabin and tears it apart. Other growling animals rip up the garden Edee is attempting to plant. She also is forced to jump into a quick flowing river to retrieve an important item she accidentally dropped in the current.
Winter storms batter and freeze the protagonist, too, as winter winds make it nearly impossible to get food, water or wood. The cabin freezes up. Edee loses a large part of her food supply and nearly starves to death at one point.
Edee also considers suicide several times. Early on, after a tragedy strikes, she openly questions why she still lives on. She talks with her therapist and her sister about ending it all. Later, after great hardship, she jams a rifle barrel under her chin and only stops from pulling the trigger because of a memory of her pleading sister. After that moment, Edee pins up her sister’s name in big letters on the cabin wall as a reminder to stay strong. Later, she also pins up pictures of loved ones for the same bolstering effect.
As Miguel teaches Edee how to trap and hunt, she carries and drags dead animal carcasses. And we see her and Miguel butchering bloody meat and skinning a suspended deer.
Edee is given an IV drip when severely dehydrated. We see a man in bed, dying of cancer.
A use of “h—” and three or four exclamations of “Oh my god!” Someone also uses the British crudity “bloody.”
The camera examines Edee’s outhouse toilet, which is swarming with flies.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Land, a film starring and directed by the very talented Robin Wright, you know exactly what to expect from this film. It’s a quiet movie about a woman steeped in overwhelming grief, who isolates herself from a world of painful reminders. From the brink of suicide, she must find a way back to some modicum of healing—one agonizing step at a time. It’s a journey she’s only able to make thanks to an unexpected friendship with a kind stranger who gradually becomes a caring friend.
The acting here is intimate and moving, the cinematography, beautiful. Land declares that gentle kindness and self-sacrifice can equal grace in the face of extreme hopelessness—a message brimming with spiritual parallels.
That said, this won’t be a film for everyone. Its pacing is measured; its sadness and sense of loss are disturbingly palpable; and its conclusion is both optimistic and bittersweet.
All of these elements combined might make Land a thoughtful cinematic journey of recovery for some, but a potentially dark road for others.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.