LAND HO! (2014)

Running Time: 95 mins.                     Rating: x Stars/5 Stars

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Aaron Katz, Martha Stephens

Genre: Adventure/Comedy

Country: Iceland/USA

Language: English

Distributor: Sony Classics

Cast: Paul Eenhorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Karrie Crouse, Elizabeth McKee, Alice Olivia Clarke, Emmsje Gauti


You probably heard the advice “Travel while you’re young.  You have the energy, and once you get kids, you’ll have to put off long trips for many years to come.”  There is some truth in this: of course you have more energy when you’re 20 than when you’re 60, and traveling with young kids or teens can be trying.  But what do you do after the youngsters leave the nest and you leave your career to retire?  You may have hobbies but eventually you’ll have wanderlust and will want to break up the routine with some trips abroad.  While Reykjavik may not be on your mind as much as Paris or Rome, there are some hardy souls who may appreciate the brisk weather and stunning nightlife of that city and the raw beauty of its natural surroundings.

Such hardy souls include Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and a buddy about his age, Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), the former a surgeon from Kentucky who retired six months earlier, the latter a retired banker from Seattle who had given up a potentially exciting career playing the French horn in a symphony orchestra. Their friendship shows that opposites attract.  Mitch is a brassy extrovert who does not think before he speaks and who sees phallic symbols in some formations of nature.  He likes to talk while Colin serves as listener, at least until they get on each other’s nerves, and well they might from spending a week or two together, seeing each other every day.  Since Mitch has money and Colin can barely afford a trip afford, Mitch splurges on a pair of first-class air tickets, on a good hotel, and on one of Reykjavik’s finest restaurants.  Remember that everything in Iceland is expensive, which means that dinner for four can easily come to five hundred dollars when you add a few bottles of wine and some of the finest Icelandic fish.

LAND HO! is a road-and-buddy movie that has been compared to 1980s road comedies or to more modern fare such as Michael Winterbottom’s THE TRIP—about two men travel through the backwoods of England reviewing restaurants.  Directors Martha Stephens, whose PILGRIM SONG is about a music teacher who hikes down Kentucky’s Sheltowee trail, and Aaron Katz, whose COLD WEATHER, set in Portland, investigates the disappearance of a girlfriend, are in their mEtier with LAND HO! though here the emphasis is on the age of the two buddies.  It’s easy to see how Colin, the quiet one of Australian background, can both envy and complement Mitch, and how some of Mitch’s extroversion rubs off as Colin joins his elderly friend in a spontaneous dance and in a flirtation with Nadine (Alice Olivia Clarke) a woman traveler-photographer with whom he shares a dip in the country’s famous, steaming Blue Lagoon.

We learn much about the men when they relate to vegetarian Ellen (Karrie Crouse), who is Mitch’s cousin-once-removed whom Ellen prefers to call an uncle, and Janet (Elizabeth McKee), Ellen’s Jewish friend who has joined her on a tour of Greenland while they prepare their Ph.D. dissertations. Iceland may be the last place that folks would be discussing Jewish mysticism, but Mitch, who has a son who is a Jewish convert, and Colin, who is simply fascinated, gets a small earful about its followers’ desire for a more personal experience of God.

Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson look more like men in the seventies than in the production notes’ described sixties, but they prove that there is much to the golden years that’s more than just a euphemistic expression.  The scenes of Iceland could yield more business for that country’s tourist board, but from the looks of the foreboding landscape, I’d say that if you don’t like the sun you’d find more to your liking in the UK countryside than in the Spartan surroundings filmed by Andrew Reed, who alternates close-ups of the characters with travelogue-style shots of a country with a population under 600,000.


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