Land Ho!, a gently bobbing film about two ex-brothers-in-law on a trip to Iceland, should be perfect fare for the Cedar Lee: modest in scope, slow in pace, noble in aspiration, and blue-haired through and through. It opens there on Friday.
Indeed, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhorn) are both deep into their sixties at the film's outset. A death and a divorce have reduced their communication — they were married to sisters — but Mitch has decided to surprise the mild-mannered Colin with tickets: a spontaneous trip would be good for them, he decrees. And though the Iceland picaresque is at first a brazen attempt to recapture the adventure and vitality of youth — techno clubs with young second cousins, weed on the reg — the film becomes, more affectingly, a discourse on aging, friendship and loneliness.
Land Ho! was a darling at the Sundance film festival, written and directed by a young tandem (Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens) who emerged from the North Carolina School of the Arts as indie upstarts a few years after that school's most notable alumnus, David Gordon Green. Green, if you'll recall, was doing naturalistic gems like George Washington and All the Real Girls before he wiped a massive poop stain out of his underwear and called it Your Highness. His early work is an obvious influence on Land Ho!, and the fruits of his later work (mostly Danny McBride collabs) helped finance it.
The real charm of Land Ho!, though, is in the candor and chemistry of its two leading men, who, rest assured, grace the screen in various stages of undress for the film's entirety. Mitch is a straight-talking Louisiana doctor who hails from a very old (and by that I mean inadvertently sexist) school: He happily spends money on others, informs young women how they ought to dress (showing as much skin as possible) and inquires into the sex lives of strangers. Colin is his foil, an Australian musician-turned-banker who's still idling on the death of his first wife and the distance of his second. He's a thoughtful, wizened senior who's aged gracefully and without shame and who tames (and relents to be unleashed a bit by) Mitch.
The other great novelty and pleasure of the film is the Icelandic countryside across which Mitch and Colin's sojourns transpire. Lush with snow and hot springs and sundry sheep-like fauna and mountains and great ancient pools, Iceland is presented to be as old, and yet as susceptible to sudden change, as the men who dance upon it. The meandering, episodic nature of these elder princes' romp might bore younger, action-loving viewers. But the content and contours of the conversation and the county itself should certainly amuse and inspire. Terrific score to boot. — Sam Allard