If there’s one thing that distinguishes most films from real life it’s the drama. Momentous things happen, and big emotions are felt, and all of us in the audience get a vicarious sense of resolution. Even most “slice of life” movies tend to focus on the big lows and highs rather than the day-to-day adventures. Land Ho! may not be completely pedestrian, but it comes a lot closer to life as it is lived than we’re used to seeing on screen, and it’s both refreshing and relaxing to see.
Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) are a pair of aging ex-brothers-in-law. Colin has always been more taciturn, and he’s drawing in even more after the loss of his wife. Mitch, on the other hand, is effusive and outgoing, almost to the point of boorishness. He decides that what Colin needs is a change of scenery, so he books the two of them on a week’s trip across Iceland.
The scenery is beautiful, and cinematographer Andrew Reed makes the most of it. The restaurant visits show off the food and the ambience, although without the focus of The Trip. Some things go right, and some go wrong, but the stakes are always low; the worst thing that happens to Colin and Mitch is getting lost away from their hotel for the night.
The lack of “action”, though, lets us get to know these men. Nelson is almost an amateur, and he plays Mitch largely as his own, boisterous, extraverted self. I would certainly tire of him quickly in person, and the film doesn’t try to soften his grating edges. And yet at the same time his essential good-natured charm comes through; he just wants to have a good time, and he honestly wants everyone else to have a good time with him, though sometimes he doesn’t notice that his idea of a good time doesn’t line up with Colin’s.
Eenhoorn is the more experienced actor, and he plays off Nelson well. The pair have a nice balance, each acting to develop the other. Colin’s calm demeanor makes Mitch’s outgoing nature pop that much more, and helps raise the contrast when Mitch does get serious. At the same time, Mitch draws Colin out, pushing him into situations for us to see Colin’s reactions in a way we never would if Colin were left to his own devices.
It’s fun to see big emotional dramas play out, but Land Ho! brings us a calmer, sweeter story that’s no less pleasant.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.