Published Aug 08, 2014The remote country of Iceland has long been a land of rebirth. In the eighth and ninth centuries, the country was inhabited by Norse and possibly Scottish settlers. In the middle ages, it was run by a united Norway, Denmark and Sweden. More recently (post-1944 independence), it has become an ideal tourist destination, an untouched and untethered land with friendly appeal and bountiful beauty.
Which brings us to former brothers-in-law Colin (Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (relative newcomer Earl Lynn Nelson), a pair of beleaguered gentleman with their better days behind them. The duo plan a trip to Iceland, hoping to, as Mitch puts it, "get their groove back." What they find is peace of mind in the face of their mortality.
A road trip/buddy comedy of Withnail & I/The Trip proportions, Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens' Land Ho! is a delightfully poignant feature about the experience of aging and the ways in which we avoid it before coming to accept it.
For Colin and Mitch, Iceland represents a blank slate, a pastoral paradise that will allow them to physically and emotionally distance themselves from their troubles at home (Colin's memories of his ex-wife and failed relationships; Mitch's recently forced retirement from his job as a general practitioner). With seemingly no point or purpose left in the world, the pair criss-cross the country in a requisite Hummer, looking for nothing in particular and finding nothing along the way.
Initially, there isn't anything particularly enlightening about their journey. The two trace the same steps many tourists have before them, coasting through the Reykjanes Peninsula, including Gulfoss, the Great Geysir (which Mitch, in all his sexually-laced Southern comedic glory, says resembles a male orgasm) and, last but not least, the famed Blue Lagoon hot springs. Their adventures along the way aren't particularly original, either: they go clubbing with youths, smoke copious amounts of marijuana and get lost with a pair of glow sticks in the wilderness. Instead, we're subjected to their myriad memories and musings on life and love, ideas made all the more impressive by the lead actors' pitch-perfect and natural portrayals.
Chief cinematographer Andrew Reed is the clear star of this picture, transporting viewers to the young and desolate country with serene depictions of the island's autumnal transformations and glassy hues. But for all of the storyline's minimalist meanderings, there is something captivating about watching two senior citizens chew the (beautiful) scenery.
While perhaps not as memorable as other movies from the genre, Land Ho! is still a striking adventure.