TMN Movie Review: "Land Ho!"

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Rating: R
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: July 11, 2014
Directed by: Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens
Genre: Adventure / Comedy

"Land Ho!" is a feel-good road movie about two older men trying to come to terms with their relationship and where they are in their respective lives. Longtime friends Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) suffer from an estranged relationship. They were previously married to two sisters. Colin's wife has died and Mitch's wife divorced him, creating a rift between the two former brothers-in-law. To heal this rift and help Colin feel better after the death of his wife, Mitch purchases the duo airline tickets to Iceland. The friends quickly rekindle their relationship and head off to discover Iceland. As the two men step out of their comfort zones together, they experience plenty of adventures and shenanigans to keep audiences engaged while also indulging in existential and soul-bearing conversations that move the narrative forward.

The choice of Iceland as a setting for the film feels like more of an accident than a pivotal plot point. This seems to be intentional on behalf of the filmmakers because it gives credence to the idea that these two men embarked on this journey on a lark. The country of Iceland becomes more of a character in the film than an accidental setting. The breathtaking scenic shots and the immersion of the two actors into their environment makes the film more enjoyable and engaging for audiences. Mitch and Colin spend a large portion of the film simply interacting with the land, its people and the different situations that being in Iceland affords them. These interactions push the men further away from their usual daily routines and grace the audience with some funny and touching moments between the two men and the people they encounter. The film does not move forward quickly but rather meanders slowly, allowing the audience to savor the experience instead of focusing on the speed of the narrative. At the beginning of the film, Mitch gives Colin reasons for choosing Iceland as their destination; however, none of these reasons really seem to pan out through the storyline.

Director Martha Stephens came up with the idea for "Land Ho!" while planning a vacation to Iceland with her husband and thinking about how her cousin, surgeon and sometimes actor Earl Lynn Nelson, would react in the environment. She approached fellow director Aaron Katz, and the two wrote the script before taking Nelson and Eenhoorn to Iceland to shoot on location for 16 days. The role of Mitch was written specifically with Nelson in mind, allowing him to basically play himself opposite Eenhoorn's Colin, a character that greatly resembles Eenhoorn's real-life personality. Colin's reserved personality balances out the flamboyance that Mitch embodies. The interactions between the two actors feel so organic that the audience can easily believe that these two men have known each other for years. The shenanigans that these men get into, from instructing women to dress up for dinner to drinking and smoking pot, help to create fully rounded, strong characters that display men who aren't quite done living just yet. Rather than taking the common route of senior buddy films, showing men who are past the prime of their lives, Colin and Mitch do not feel or look frail. They are healthy, independent and feel more like they've reached a turning point in their lives rather than the end of it. This helps to keep the tone of the movie light, even through dramatic interludes, and keeps the audience wondering what the characters are going to do next rather than when something tragic is going to happen. The interactions between the characters make them feel like real people rather than characters on a movie screen. Like real-life friends, Colin and Mitch argue, laugh and experience moments of vulnerability that give them clarity on their lives and relationship with each other.

Even though "Land Ho!" is a senior buddy flick, it's engaging enough to not discriminate against younger audiences. The rapport between Mitch and Colin is funny in a realistic way that does not simply milk the audience for laughs. By allowing the actors to ad-lib their characters' dialogue within the given structure of the script, the directors gave Nelson and Eenhoorn the opportunity to give very natural performances. As Colin and Mitch, the duo proves that an adventure can be embarked upon at any stage of life and that true friendship can withstand the many stresses of life. The rapport between Nelson and Eenhoorn and the stunning visuals of Iceland make "Land Ho!" an upbeat film that is a must-see for audiences seeking a relaxing, thought-provoking theater experience.

Tags: Land Ho!