You get to a certain point in life40, 50, 70, divorce, the death of a spouse, or your retirement partywhen you think theres nothing left to do or see on this Earth. Youll never experience love again. Theres nothing more to get excited about. You dont have enough money. Your body is falling apart. Naps matter more than sex. Youthful dreams are but a memorya mockery, really. And meanwhile, people are posting those goddamn videos on YouTube: babys first bite of kiwi fruit, and so forth. All that squealing amazement and infantile hand-waving; and you know kiwi fruit will never taste that way for you again. What is the point to living?
Thats the existential dilemma for Dr. Mitch, well into his 60s, adult kids gone, divorced, eating dinner alone when we meet him. He wont admit it, of course, especially to his somber visitor Colin, his former brother-in-law, who carries the weight of post-midlife more heavily. Colins kids are also grown, his first wife died, and his second wife divorced him (after burning through his savings in their failed business). Colin initially seems the guy in need of cheering up, which the earthy, garrulous Mitch makes his mission.
Oh, did I neglect to mention this is a comedy? And one of my favorite films so far this year? Land Ho! is a buddy movie and a road-trip picaresque with an unusual pedigree. It was directed and written (with a healthy dollop of improv) by indie filmmakers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens almost on a dare. Stephens has a loud, colorful cousin, Earl Lynn Nelson, whos a surgeon, not an actor. And her premise was simply Wouldnt it be hilarious if we brought Earl Lynn to Iceland? To be his foil, they selected an actor they liked, the Bellevue-based Australian Paul Eenhoorn (see interview).
The impulsive making of the movie reinforces the spontaneous trip hatched by Mitch (Nelson) to drag reticent Colin (Eenhoorn) to Iceland, where Mitch also plans to meet a young cousin and her friend, two eye-rolling Ph.D.s. These old goats are in need of an adventurethrough the discos and fashionable restaurants of Reykjavík; out to the remote hot springs and black-sand beachesand theyre fully aware it could be their last adventure. (Life is too short to sit still, says Mitch, who gradually reveals his own problems and need for companionship.) Bucket list meets travelogue in this winning male-menopause comedy, which shares themes with the recent Burkholder and the upcoming The Trip to Italy.
Usually Im a critic of loose story construction, but the slapdash Land Ho! is too charming for such quibbles. What Nelson and Eenhoorn have is genuine Hope and Crosbystyle chemistry. Strangers before filming, from different professions, they couldnt be more different. Yet onscreen, their extrovert/introvert dynamic reflects the dilemma of aging. Mitch insists the glass is half full, while the bubbles have gone out of Colins half-emptied drink. And though he quietly protests the overbearing Mitch, we seethanks to Eenhoorns expert performancehow Colin is secretly pleased by the attention and reanimated by Mitchs vulgar vigor. Its a toast: two glasses clinking in harmony, measure for measure. The bottle isnt done pouring yet.