Scared by an unspoken tragedy, Edee (Robin Wright, who also makes her feature directorial debut here) decides to forsake civilization, purchases a cabin in the deep woods of the Pacific northwest and retreats into solitude. At first, she seems to adjust to her new, isolated life. But as winter sets in, a combination of bad luck and her own inexperience with deep woods living, she finds herself at the edge of death. Fortunately she is found by hunter Miguel (Demián Bichir) who first nurses her back to health and then teaches her the skills she needs if she is going to continue living out in the woods. But while both suggest that they would be happier alone, they discover they have a growing friendship that they both very much need in their lives.
Land is a quiet film, not afraid to be as contemplative as its lead character is. As a director, Wright shows an innate trust in the material she is working with. Wright doesn’t evidence a lot of directorial flourishes here and that is fine. The visual aspect of the film never gets any deeper than the inside of the cabin where Edee spends her time being under-lit and dark compared to bright world just off of her front porch. This allows her and the audience to just sped the time with Edee, getting to know her as she thinks she is doing what she needs to do to get past her trauma while it is abundantly clear she is not moving onward at all.
Wright also never lets any moment get overwrought with artificially heightened drama or unearned tension. We recognize the danger in Edee’s trip to the outhouse in the midst of a near whiteout blizzard without the screenplay or Wright gilding the lily with any extra complications. Even though it is just a journey of a twenty yards or so, it is still a perilous trek and one that almost kills her and Wright gives it just the gravitas needed.
But ultimately Land isn’t a tale of physical survival but of emotional survival. Edee needs to learn that retreating from other people will not cure her heart ache but it is sharing our pain with others as they share theirs with us. Granted, over the last eleven months it has been hard to keep our own personal interactions with others going due to covid restrictions, and it is hard not to look at Edee’s isolation and plight through the lens of what society is going through now, even if Wright had no such intentions.