Travelogue films have been one of the enduring subgenres in film for many years. From road trips to international adventures, moviegoers and filmmakers alike have gravitated towards its thrilling cinematic possibilities. The same goes for this week's top pick "Land Ho!", a comedy written and directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens.
"Land Ho" follows a pair of former brothers-in-law who set forth on an impulsive trip to Iceland. Both are retired and in their 60s, each harboring sadness over failures in love and their professional careers. Though they've been apart for years, the upcoming trip provides a welcome opportunity to rekindle their friendship and find happiness. A fun-filled adventure awaits with delicious food, jawdropping sights and warm people that are enough to make them feel like young men again.
It would be easy to judge "Land Ho!" from its synopsis and expect a maudlin affair. "The Bucket List" certainly comes to mind when thinking of recent films of this ilk. Katz and Stephens have come up with a different itinerary altogether however, creating something that's life-affirming but thoroughly unassuming.
Indeed, rather than "The Bucket List", a more apt comparison would be Richard Linklater's Before trilogy. The film shares the same affinity for long conversations, enhanced by an effortless sense of humour. Like Jesse and Celine too, it's also strengthened by the engaging characters/performances, in this case a pair of opposite personalities by the names of Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn). Mitch is the more outgoing of the two, a rambunctious fellow who's unafraid to say anything that comes to his perverted mind. As written, he could have been insufferable, but Nelson's performance makes his crass attitude somehow endearing. He reminds you of that dirty uncle who says inappropriate things but you know that it's all in jest and deep down, he has the biggest heart. Colin is certainly aware of this - the entire trip was paid for by Mitch after all - and Eenhoorn's unperturbed reactions cue us in to the longstanding bond between the men. It's the quintessential case of "opposites attract", as Colin's reserved, charming British demeanour counters Mitch's skirt-chasing, pot-smoking personality beautifully.
"Land Ho" runs a brisk 95 minutes but you could easily spend another hour with this delightful pairing, a testament to the script's richly-drawn characters and the easy rapport between the principal actors. There's so much joy to be had in this film, just by getting to know the characters. The setting almost becomes an afterthought as these men are attraction enough. Despite their age, not once does the screenplay feel the need to be morbid. People always say to "act your age", but "Land Ho!" is a beautiful reminder to embrace life with open arms no matter how old you are.