“Land” arrives at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, March 5. Despite its clumsy title, this film, starring and directed by Robin Wright, is a powerful and moving study of isolation. Set in the breathtakingly beautiful mountains of Wyoming, a stand-in for Alberta, Canada, where it was filmed, “Land” plays an important role in the life of central character, Edee, played by Wright.
The viewer meets Edee as she walks along urban streets, dropping her cellphone into the trash. It is the first sign of her rejection of others and her embrace of the wilderness. The viewer watches as she follows a pickup truck into a remote spot in the mountains on Shoshone land. She asks her guide, who is concerned at leaving her alone, to arrange for her van and trailer to be removed. A cabin will be her home, entirely alone.
“Why am I here?” Edee asks herself, and this question is followed by a haunting flashback of a man and boy fishing. She imagines people she cares about passing by, and in remembering them, she’s reduced to tears. It’s the first real mention of the loss she has suffered. In a trip to the outhouse, a bear shows up, and she waits inside for it to leave after ransacking the cabin. It’s an illustration of the risks in her isolation, along with the snowbound winter weather.
The viewer watches her daily routine, which suggests how little she knows about survival and the increasing dangers she faces. She has difficulty chopping wood, and she runs out of food. A blizzard brings a serious challenge. Soon she is lying dehydrated and unconscious until an Oglala hunter, Miguel, played by the Mexican American actor Demián Bichir, shows up with his sister, a nurse, Alawa, played by Sarah Dawn Pledge. The two of them manage to revive Edee, just barely. As Miguel helps her to recover, she makes it clear that she doesn’t want help or any mention of the outside world. “If I end up starving, then that’s on me,” she says. “If I don’t belong here, then I don’t belong anywhere.” She does take him up on his offer to teach her how to survive. Afterward, he promises, he will leave.
Scenes follow of her learning to use a rifle and killing a deer, then dressing it for its meat. Miguel shows her how to build traps for smaller animals and how to fish. Eventually he confesses his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident eight years earlier, and, eventually, that he was driving the car. Miguel asks her to take care of his dog while he’s gone. Edee takes out a box with photos in it, crying, and the viewer understands the extent of her loss. She hangs the photos on the cabin wall, suggesting, perhaps, the beginnings of a need for others.
(Spoiler alert: the next paragraph describes the conclusion of the film.)
Deciding Miguel had never been gone as long, she walks the miles into town and the hospital where Alawa works. Alawa tells Edee where to find Miguel, and it turns out he’s dying of cancer. She finally tells him that her husband and son were shot and killed. “You gave me all I want,” he tells her. “You gave me to die in a state of grace.” Edee responds, “You made me want to live again.”
In this way, the two are matched, and Edee calls her sister Emma, a marker of her rejoining society.
Information and tickets for “Land” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.