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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: “Land Ho!” overcomes lazy plot points with visual splendor

"Land Ho!"

Directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens

The film opens with an older man getting a visit from a longtime friend that he hasn’t seen in years. They begin to cook dinner, converse about the fun memories and eventually dive into more personal subjects. To the older man’s companion, this get-together is just an opportunity to make up for lost time. What he doesn’t know is that he is about to be offered the opportunity to experience an adventure that will completely change his views on life.

“Land Ho!” follows two ex-brothers-in-law in their 60s, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), who take a trip to Iceland in an attempt to get away from the struggles of aging and to reclaim their youth. Mitch is a retired doctor who likes to act young and strives to live life to its fullest. Colin, on the other hand, is a quiet man who has gradually lost interest in taking on new adventures, although in the past he lived life like Mitch. After Colin’s divorce, he had lost hope in doing anything interesting in life, until Mitch books two first-class tickets to Iceland.

Directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens succeed in portraying the two different perspectives of the theme of aging: One side accepts that they can’t do anything else with their lives, and the other believes that there is still more time for excitement. Even though Mitch seems to be the comic relief of the film through his conversations with Colin, his rocky past comes to light: He too got divorced at one point during his life, and he did not choose to retire, but was forced to. These past events, and his subsequent coping may make the viewer feel that Mitch is coming to terms with his age. As a result of this, he realizes that he can’t waste the time that he has left.

The overall visual aspect of the film is spectacular, to a point where the viewers may feel like they are actually journeying through Iceland. As the two seniors backpack through the country, the audience sees the nightlife in Reykjavik, the spas in the Icelandic countryside and the famous geysers and hot springs. Cinematographer Andrew Reed films the story almost as if it were in real time. It has a documentary-type feel and, aesthetically, the scenes have a rustic impression common among independent films.

One scene in particular that displays both personalities is a moment in an art gallery. After their first dinner in Iceland, Mitch and Colin roam around a local gallery, looking at and commenting on different pieces of art. The dialogue truly captures their friendship: Mitch makes bawdy remarks about seeing naked women, while Colin takes a more intellectual approach. It looks like an unusual friendship, but they really complement each other. They have gone through similar experiences, and they understand each other. Their enjoyable on-screen chemistry backs this up.

A notable moment of chemistry occurs when Mitch and Colin break into a dance sequence on the beach, where the narrative of the film is replaced by an amusing and endearing montage, and it is the first time that dialogue isn’t being used. At times during the film, they have some arguments, which reveal some personal conflict. This sequence exemplifies how friendship can prevail and shows that one is never too old to be free and let go.

Overall, the film is an enjoyable and humorous story. However, there are several points in the film where it becomes slightly awkward and starts to get boring. Toward the middle of the film, Mitch receives an email from his young cousin, Ellen (Karrie Krouse), saying that she is staying with her friend Janet (Elizabeth McKee) in Greenland and is coming to visit him in Iceland.

Mitch interprets the visit as an opportunity for him and Colin to get “back in the groove” and finally regain their youth through partying with the girls. However, once the girls arrive, the interaction is slightly uncomfortable: The dialogue among the group is very dry and slightly unpleasant, and the scene is so very long that the audience may start to lose interest. Unfortunately, the film has many moments like this where some aspects are redundant, and scenes become less interesting for the viewer.

Katz and Stephens tackle the “coming of age” theme brilliantly through the friendship of Mitch and Colin. Although their viewpoints on life differ in the beginning, at the end of the film they come to an understanding of each other, as well as an understanding of how to truly experience life. The cinematography is impressive and definitely a main highlight of the movie. However, the film does have several low points where the dialogue is bland and some scenes feel like they are going on for an eternity.

Ultimately, “Land Ho!” is a heartwarming combination of visuals and lighthearted moments that delivers — in an occasionally dull cinematic package — the message that aging doesn’t stop someone from living life to the fullest.