Land Ho!
written & directed by Martha Stephens & Aaron Katz

This simple, unadorned film contains the best acting I’ve seen all year.  Australian Paul Eenhoorn has been an actor all his life; but the others, despite a few film roles, have had relatively little experience.  runamokprods on imdb says it better than I can:  “…feels as authentic as if it was all improvised.” ( 8/8/14)  In the two scenes in which the senior traveling brothers-in-law react with young cousin Ellen and her friend Janet, the foursome are as natural as if no camera is present, as if they are not speaking from a script, as if they are not actors.

The first of these two scenes occurs in the motel where the four are staying, and Mitch is insisting that the young women accept his money and buy the kinds of clothes he thinks they should be wearing before going out on the town that evening.  These happen to be the kind of clothes they don’t like and would never buy for themselves.  In the next scene the four are at dinner together, and conversation is desultory and random.  It is all real and revealing and interesting.

SCENERY:  One of the finest aspects of Land Ho! is its manner of presenting the splendor of Iceland where these two aging guys have gone for their vacation.  We are never shown a site just because it’s beautiful.  We are not asked to Ooooh! and Ah!  We are given beautifully austere and ravishing shots because that’s where our travelers are right now  —  or it expresses their mood  —  or shows how and why that mood is going to change.

Land Ho! is so captivating that I was a long while getting around to asking myself what it is about.  I think it is about aging and loneliness and honesty about both of those.  It’s about individualism and being oneself.  Colin may loosen up a trifle during their jaunt, but from the start he knows who he is and will basically remain himself despite all Mitch’s nagging.  Mitch, who never questions his own welcome with anyone  —  even with newlyweds in the motel  —  loves telling other people what they should be doing which usually amounts to being more like him.  His young cousin Ellen, with a strong sense of self and a fund of inner resources, stands up to him when she needs to without rancor or hostility.  And Mitch, along with generosity, has other strengths.  When it becomes clear to him that, having talked so much sex, he is going to go without any and that quiet Colin is scoring, he’s a good sport about that and helps it along.

Earl Lynn Nelson as Mitch
Paul Eenhoorn as Colin
Karrie Crouse as Ellen
Elizabeth McKee as Janet
Alice Olivia Clarke as Nadine


Until then,
See you at the movies,

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