Pandering in Cinema. #1. Land (2020) Review.

This author did not know much about Robin Wrights feature directorial debut Land before going and seeing it. It was a film available at Cineworld that he could see with his unlimited card. Let’s give it a go. 5 minutes into the film he regretted that decision.
Wright may be a solid actress. That said Land represents everything this critic despises about festival pandering critic bait. The IMDb synopsis for the excruciating 88 minutes read as follows. A bereaved woman seeks a new life off the grid in Wyoming. That’s it. The audience watch Wrights central character process her emotions, do chores and occasionally encounter Damien Bashir for 88 minutes. That’s it. All of this is nicely photographed in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The entire experience feels unbelievably hollow. A piece whose emotional core feels fabricated, on an entirely unearned “naturalistic” presentation. It has nothing beyond a gaping black hole at its centre. The final product comes across as if those that worked on it believed the critical acclaim this embarrassment is so desperate to receive would manifest itself by birthright. They were right in some ways. 6.6 on IMDb and 68 on Metacritic is not bad for this sort of production. This author guarantees the all those reviews come from festival screenings. The kind of middlebrow effort that will make certain critics and #filmtwitter pundits cream the pants on cinematography alone. Those that undertake #filmsbywomen challenges, but see this is as nothing more than a binary system as opposed to spotlighting genuine quality of work. Critically after these festival screenings, the piece will get a very limited theatrical release and then disappear off the face of the earth. For comparison

These are criticisms you could level add both Nomadland and Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. The thing is that both films have much stronger emotional cores. They distinctly hold more appeal to critics than audiences with their slow slice of life narratives. That said they still offer something potentially engaging to the right audience member. The latter even managed to make an emotionally engaging scene out of a man milking a cow. Eliza Hittman mastered the balance between naturalism and emotional engagement with Never Rarely Sometimes Always. One of the very best from last year. Land offers none of that.

Even as someone who got an impromptu private screening it was a borderline painful viewing experience. This endurance test offers nothing to the film landscape beyond some solid cinematography. It probably deserves an extra point for the commitment in Wrights central performance. That said this author wants to do his best to rally against this exact aesthetic within contemporary filmmaking. It’s a blight on the landscape but one that certain critics will eat up with a spoon.
Land represents everything wrong with modern art-house filmmaking. A soulless audience contemptible embarrassment. It believes critical acclaim will manifest by birthright if it presents things in a certain way. The film offers nothing of value. Don’t get suckered in by any pretentious #filmbro who focuses on artistic value and analysis rather than emotional engagement. Both of these have value. They ultimately need to work together to craft An engaging experience with appeal beyond critics. Unless general audiences want to see a textbook example of critic pandering they should avoid Land like the plague.

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