Before I quit my job at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to play at being a writer, I was a regular contributor to the Eleventh Stack blog. I was free to write about pretty much any material in the Library’s catalog. It was great! On Thursdays, I’ll revisit some of my old faves. A version of this post first appeared on August 4, 2015.
Whilst catching up one day, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), a former surgeon with a raunchy streak, tells his taciturn ex-brother-in-law, Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), a former bank manager, that he’s bought them two tickets to Iceland. Reluctant to join Mitch at first, Colin eventually acquiesces and the adorable odd couple traverse the majestic land of fire and ice in Land Ho! (affiliate, and below), directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz.
Did I mention that they’re both senior citizens?
I had a grin on my face for nearly every frame of this film. Despite no longer being linked by a marriage, Mitch and Colin’s friendship remains. Think about that for a moment: the friendship these two forged was longer-lasting than a marriage, the supposed end-all, be-all of relationships. I loved their friendship, and I could totally see myself and one of my bros embarking on a similar journey in half a century.
Part of the humor is when Mitch and Colin act like teenagers – Mitch loves seeing girls in leggings. Seeing them dancing on the beaches of Iceland to the film’s title song was both surreal and oddly comforting.
And speaking of the soundtrack, it sounds like it stepped right out of the 80s (which was no accident). The synth-heavy songs, along with Keegan DeWitt’s dreamy score and the breathtakingly gorgeous scenery give the film an almost-ethereal quality. It’s basically a travelogue for Iceland. I’ll have to live vicariously through film until I can visit the land of unpronounceable names. Seriously, Grundarfjörður? Reyðarfjörður? Kirkjubæjarklaustur?! How did they come up with these?
At one point a fellow traveler is taking their picture in a hot spring and she remarks that the two friends make the picture. That’s true of the film as a whole.
Even at their age, Mitch and Colin still wonder about what they’re going to do with their lives. Hearing them talk about life was much more relatable than when, say, Lena Dunham complains about life. It comes across as much less whiny, to be sure. It got me thinking about life and its cyclic nature. The problems of life don’t subscribe to things like age restrictions.
So what didn’t I like?
Land Ho! is definitely in the mumblecore genre, and the one problem I always have with such films is that I’ve never seen one with a satisfying ending (except for Frances Ha). I was hoping for a more definite ending because these men are, for all intents and purposes, nearing the end of their lives. I suppose ignoring their ages and just telling the story is in keeping with the rest of the film, but to the mumblecore filmmakers I ask, is it too much to ask to just pick an ending?
If you don’t like mumblecore, or quiet character-driven films, then this probably isn’t for you. If you don’t think two sexagenarians road-tripping around Iceland is a realistic depiction of seniors, I defer to the epic bromance of Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here passing a languid hour and a half with this light, airy film.
Do you have a favorite bromance, fictional or otherwise? Have you ever been to Iceland? Let me know in the comments below!
I’m really enjoying revisiting these old posts. It makes me want to rewatch these movies again to see if they hold up. As always, I hope I’ve alerted you to a heretofore unknown movie that will soon become one of your faves.