The road trip. It’s something we’ve all done and have all gotten roped into doing at one stage or another in our lives, but when you think about it how many of them have been really, really good and how many others have just sort of happened uneventfully, you’ll remember that it’s something you often don’t have any grand desire to relive any time soon. Land Ho! is leaning towards the later part of that statement. It certainly has some cute moments, but more often than not it just feels like an excuse to take picturesque shots of the Icelandic country side.
Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) used to be inseparable best friends. However, that was when they were married to a pair of sisters and they have slowed drifted apart over the years as Mitch ultimately got a divorce and Colin’s wife passed away. Now recently retired and in their sixties, Mitch can’t cope with having nothing to do, and he enlists Colin into an adventure exploring the Iceland. Though hesitant, Colin agrees and these two now polar opposites decide to reacquaint themselves with the joie de vivre of their younger years.
More dull then genuinely interesting, funny, or engaging, Land Ho! lacks any real narrative structure, going for a naturalistic feel, but it plays as almost the opposite. It’s just way too slight and understated to be able to generate some genuine traction or empathy for either character. It’s almost too loose to hold together, constantly feeling like things will unravel at any moment and not in a pleasant way that most road pictures find their characters unravelling.
The writing/directing team of Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz have developed some solid cred on the indie scene separately, but this is their first directorial collaboration. They get the visuals right (the film is stunning to look at from top to bottom), but they forgot to include an engaging or original story to make it all matter. Everything just sort of happens for the sake of happening, which would be fine if this wasn’t just 95 minutes of watching two people bickering for 95 minutes unamusingly.
These guys have moments, though. Nelson and Eenhoorn as Colin are quite charming in spurts, but the way they’re written and the film’s overreliance on set pieces instead of plot or character beats makes their dynamic tiring, grating, and thing very quickly. They’re like two guys you see at a party that you’ll politely talk to while the people you want to spend time with have hit the washroom.
They have conversations in a variety of different settings as they roam across the Icelandic country side, but both of their idiosyncrasies and quirks are so basic and stilted that the film ends up feeling twice as long as it needs to be. The point of the film should be how exciting life can be if you just look around you. There’s plenty to look at, but you’d probably be better off just staying home, taking a nap, and imagining a better film.