A road-trip movie about a couple of guys nearing the end of life’s road, Land Ho! is a sweetly simple tale that underscores what we already know but too often forget: Adventurism and finding your bliss are not just for the young.
Earl Lynn Nelson is Mitch, a lovable and profane crank of a man, who invites his quieter, more erudite brother-in-law Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) on an expense-paid trip to Iceland. Actually, they’re technically ex-brothers-in-law since they had been married to a pair of sisters, but no longer. In fact, the reason Mitch is taking Colin to Iceland is to take a breather from the suffocation of loneliness.
Once in Iceland, nothing of world-changing import happens. They hang out with a young relative of Mitch’s, and her best friend, who are on their way back from Greenland. Colin starts to get his mojo back, thanks to a Canadian hiker (Alice Olivia Clarke). Mitch gets to glimpse natural beauty, like an explosive geyser, that he has long been wanting to see.
Mostly though, Mitch and Colin — who are in nearly every scene — just talk and argue, bicker and bond, cementing a friendship built over years of life experience. That they happen to be doing it with one of the most dramatically gorgeous landscapes on the planet as background (cinematographer Andrew Reed, take a bow) makes it all the more memorable.
There are no huge laughs or thunderbolts of insight in Land Ho!, merely warm smiles of recognition. The new wave-influenced soundtrack, specifically Big Country’s 1983 hit In a Big Country, also works surprisingly well.
The directing/writing team of Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens takes a low-key, naturalistic, indie-film approach to the material. There’s little dramatic build-up, an element that could be irksome, but the chemistry between Mitch and Colin makes it work.
Land Ho! may not be everyone’s idea of a great trip, but it’s still a journey worth taking.
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