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Susan Granger's review of 'Land Ho!'

Published 5:51 pm, Friday, August 29, 2014
  • Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "Land Ho!" Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed / New Canaan News Contributed
    Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "Land Ho!" Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed

 

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C.S. Lewis once wrote: "You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream."

So when a pair of curious, 60-something ex-brothers-in-law set off on a road trip, they're determined to reclaim their youthful exuberance and enthusiasm.

Married to two sisters, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) were once close friends. But when Mitch and his wife divorced, they drifted apart. Then Colin's wife died. So Mitch, a retired doctor, is determined to enhance what's left of his life with another adventure -- and he convinces reluctant Colin to accompany him on a wild, wintry exploration of Iceland.

While garrulous Mitch gladly forks over the cost of first-class tickets, a posh hotel and extravagant restaurant dinners, introspective Colin proves to be a troubling traveling companion -- until they take off in a huge Hummer and meet Nadine (Alice Olivia Clarke), who takes a fancy to Colin while she's photographing and swimming in the hot springs at Landmannalaugar.

In this case, the back story is almost as interesting as the narrative. Jovial Nelson, who really was an ocular plastic surgeon in eastern Kentucky, became intrigued when his second cousin, independent filmmaker Martha Stephens ("Pilgrim Song"), came up with the buddy-comedy concept and teamed up with her University of North Carolina film school classmate Aaron Katz ("Cold Weather").

Working as co-writers/directors, they recruited Australian-born actor Paul Eenhoorn, along with cinematographer Andrew Reed, and took off for scenic Reykjavik and its primordial environs. While the sensitive plot points were scripted, many of the scenes are improvised, like the candid dialogue when they're viewing explicitly sexual paintings in an art gallery as the artist stands nearby or impatiently waiting for a landmark geyser to blow. Their collaborative effort became a hit at the Sundance, Tribeca and Los Angeles film festivals and was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Land Ho!" is a resonant 6, serving as both a charming comical confection and an enticing Icelandic travelogue.