Land is an unhurried look at grief, isolation, and how a full (and therefore healing) experience of lament often requires the bonds of community. Gorgeous mountainscape views and detailed attention to creation’s seasonal rhythms invite us to take deep breaths and remember that there’s more to our existence than the four walls we’ve been quarantined in this past year.
Robin Wright’s directorial debut shows the wisdom she has accumulated over years as a thoughtful actor. Edee (played by Wright) pulls away from modern life to hide in a mountain cabin after a family tragedy. This film was ripe for cliches, but Wright skillfully sidesteps every common trope of a survival wilderness story. As I watched, I was afraid some would compare it to Wild, but where Wild was cute, Land doesn’t smile. No one pulls themselves up by their bootstraps, hiking or otherwise, in the movie, because that’s not how real life works. This film doesn’t waste time on a romance storyline when friendship is actually the more powerful tool, and it doesn’t pretend that anyone can step into the forest and just get the hang of it. Depression, death, threats of self harm, and sickness are a part of this story the way they impact our real lives. Tragedy is not flashy. We often sit in the middle of pain not sure when it will end or if we even want to be rescued.
Wright started shooting this movie before the COVID pandemic started—and production/editing was delayed a year because of it—but it could not have been a better story to tell as so many of us are looking for ways to mark our numbed suffering in order to bring meaning to the madness.
The work of the Church is often to help people celebrate and remember beauty and to grieve when life feels meaningless due to loss or suffering. It’s this communal ritual of lament that Land portrays so well. We lament by putting words to our experience and our pain. We then share those words with others in the form of confession. Be it by a bedside, at a bar, or on a mountain trail in the middle of nowhere, when we share our story, and re-live the pain that goes with it, we are claiming the healing that comes from confessing to someone else who carries the image of God.