Land Ho!

A gently elegiac road comedy about two aging buddies vacationing in Iceland, Land Ho! is a bawdy, bittersweet ode to friendship’s lasting joys and life’s inevitable regrets, the film also offers sturdy testament to the rewards of working as a duo, showcasing not only pitch-perfect turns from Paul Eenhoorn and relative newcomer Earl Lynn Nelson, but also a seamless writing-directing collaboration between rising indie helmers Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz.
It begins with a long-overdue reunion between two men who were once related by marriage, as Seattle-based Colin (Eenhoorn) arrives on the Kentucky doorstep of his former brother-in-law, Mitch (Nelson). The requisite stark contrast in personalities is established right off the bat when Mitch tells Colin that he’s planned an impromptu trip to Iceland for the two of them. After some half-hearted protest, Colin agrees, the vacation being just what he needs to get his mind off his recent split from his second wife.
Before long the two men land in Reykjavik, where Mitch has a fairly simple, effortlessly pleasurable agenda in store. The men are joined by a pair of attractive, much younger female companions in the form of Ellen and Janet, who have been touring Greenland and coincidentally find themselves in Reykjavik at the same time as Colin and Mitch. After some initial tentativeness, the four ultimately develop a warm, friendly rapport that serves, for the two gents, as a sweet, sad reminder of their vanished youth.
It’s typical of Stephens and Katz’s approach that, rather than imposing any artificial melodrama or comedy on the proceedings, they allow their characters to simply lose themselves in conversation and the pleasure of each other’s company.
As it moves its characters toward a delightfully well-earned ending, “Land Ho!” strikes a near-perfect balance between indie scrappiness and mainstream polish. The film’s pleasures as eye-candy travelogue are delivered without pretense or apology. But what gives the story its moment-to-moment buoyancy is the pleasure of watching two actors working brilliantly in tandem.
Nelson makes a fairly unforgettable impression as the sometimes lovable, sometimes trying Mitch, the kind of vulgarian who likes to point out the phallic subtext of geysers and lighthouses, and who thinks nothing of doling out some unsolicited marriage advice to a honeymooning couple. Eenhoorn is no less invaluable as the more restrained, refined half of the duo who can nonetheless reveal a wild and silly side.
- Justin Chang, Variety


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