Have you ever watched a film that took you completely off-guard? A film that you did not have high expectations for, but found yourself being blown away by how entertaining and brilliant it is? I certainly encounter a film like that from time to time, and it is honestly such an amazing feeling. What is even better is if that film is a small, simple independent film, because it will very often be great because of its heart and soul, and would likely be a labor of love. I will not exaggerate here, but Land Ho! is one of the most entertaining and wonderful cinematic experiences I’ve had in years, and that is not just excitement from how great this film is, but rather an admission that I adored this film.
The story is one that instantly attracted me towards the film – two old men decide to go on a trip around Iceland. That is exactly everything this film is about – two people having a good time on holiday in a strange and beautiful country. It does remind me very much of last year’s wonderful film Youth, which also saw two elderly men trying to find themselves while in a faraway country. This formula may be one that seems bland and lifeless in theory, because in the current cinematic world, a film like this wouldn’t ever work, because audiences demand excitement, scandal and a set story structure. It is because of this that I am grateful for independent cinema, because without independent filmmakers, a film like Land Ho! could simply not be made. I appreciate the fact that independent cinema is pretty vogue nowadays, and while it is drifting into territories of the mainstream very fast lately, we are still able to find captivating and original stories, and films that defy the standards of the mainstream studios.
This film is anchored by two wonderful performances from actors the vast majority of people have never heard of. Of course, no one would have heard of the actor Earl Lynn Nelson because he isn’t an actor – he’s a surgeon, and one that only acted in this film as a favor to his cousin, co-director Martha Stephens. The other is Australian character actor Paul Eenhoorn, who does a great job countering Nelson’s loud and bombastic performance. These two men probably have the single-greatest chemistry I’ve ever seen between two performers, and that is not an exaggeration. Both are very much salt-of-the-earth, humble people who give wonderfully simple performances. Nelson is great in his first major film role, and he honestly inhabits his character perfectly. He is foul-mouthed, hilarious and so endearing. Eenhoorn is reserved and understated, but he is equally great, and forms a great counterbalance to Nelson’s performance. The chemistry between these two is so tangible and wonderful, and to see them together is such a joy. They are great together, and I could honestly watch them together for hours – they are both just so fantastic.
I’ve heard some people complain that this film lacks big stars, which they see as being negative. Of course, this film could have easily been made with any two older actors – and to be perfectly honest, Hollywood doesn’t lack actors over the age of 70, that’s for sure. However, not having recognizable faces in this film is vastly for the better – first of all, there isn’t any way we can be disappointed with their performances. Considering they are not professional actors, their performances are actually damn impressive. Secondly, it just makes this film sweeter and a lot more meaningful, because these two guys clearly put their hearts and souls into these performances. Finally, it makes this film seem so real and natural, because it often feels like a real-life adventure – it really constantly looks like a really well-made home movie, which is not a bad thing – independent cinema has its root in home movies. The choice to cast two unknowns in the lead roles was absolutely inspired, and one reason why independent cinema is wonderful.
There is so much to love about Land Ho! It is beautifully made, first of all – the cinematography is some of the very best I’ve ever seen. Never before has such a small film looked so majestic and grand. Directors Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz really captured the beauty and grandeur of Iceland, and makes sure that the audience becomes acquainted with the beautiful nation. They also make some bold but brilliant choices with the music, and the score is just exquisite. The entire film is just absolutely stunning, and it is so wonderfully crafted, and I just adored it. It is just brilliant, from beginning to end.
I really and truly did adore Land Ho! It is honestly one of the very best films I’ve ever seen. It is sweet, simple and absolutely wonderful. I honestly think it is one of the most unique and fantastic independent films made this decade, and the fact that is is so unassuming and so humble is fantastic. I would most certainly watch this film again, several times. I urge everyone to seek this film out – it really is great and will entertain absolutely everyone. I think independent cinema, especially films like this, need our support, so take the plunge and watch this film and spread the word. It really is a fantastic film and I assure you, unless you have a heart of stone, there is not a chance that you will leave this film underwhelmed. It is really worth it, I promise you.