Land Ho! is an endearing comedy-drama, marketed to the pensioners/AARP crowd, which normally gets left out of the Hollywood/mainstream buzz. It emerges following a very similar film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which, in a way, proved to American audiences that you can make a film involving elderly people that isn't so fixated or concerned with imminent death. That film gave life to the senior citizens crowd, invigorating audiences with the idea that just because you're a senior citizen doesn't mean, in turn, you must stop living life. As common sense of a statement as that seems to be, I feel many people have forgotten that and feel something of an obligation, or perhaps a lack of desire, to refuse to live their elder years past three meals a day, the newspaper, and excessive quiet-time.
The film revolves around ex-brother-in-laws Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), who reunite after years of lost contact to spend some time reclaiming their youth by visiting Reykjavík nightclubs and taverns. The two geezers are polar opposites, as you'd expect, with Colin being very mild-mannered and reserved and Mitch being quick to tell you what body part of a woman he'd make use of the most. The two spend much of their travels inciting aimless conversations about women and sex, eventually picking up two women and going drinking with them one night, along with trying to leave the ills of the past as someone else's responsibility. They weren't necessarily responsible for the demise of the marriage, and they simply want to enjoy some element of adventure and companionship before their inevitable fate.
This kind of life-affirming cinema for elderly people is a beautiful and honest way to paint the picture for people that glory days aren't always the days of your youth. Colin and Mitch engage in some activities I'm sure no one expected them to, and while they weren't the youngest at the nightclubs, or the souls with the quickest wit on the street, they still no less had a pleasant time with one another and found more happiness in that moment than if they would've spent it alone.
Land Ho! is a relatively low-stakes film and it operates on a very safe playing field. Much of it is predicated off of these aforementioned conversations that feel like talk of momentarily horny old men who haven't had sex since the last solar eclipse. It's meditative and humble style of filmmaking, in addition to the frequently beautiful photography of the Iceland region, is reminiscent of David Gordon Green, which makes it no surprise that he appears as one of the film's producers. In addition, the way cinematographer Andrew Reed decides to capture Iceland, through beautiful, wide-angle shots sets to melodic tunes of yesteryear, makes Land Ho! is a decidedly peaceful movie-going experience, even with all the camaraderie occurring.
With that, the writing/directing team of Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz craft a film that works because of how real it feels, although it misses the opportunity to have the two characters engage in more heartfelt discussions about topics of a little more sustenance. However, its evasion of that is also part of its charm. This is a film about embracing one's willingness to continue celebrating life even when society says that you should simply sit down and live your life in solitude. By going out, drinking, smoking, and engaging in their own adventures, the characters of Colin and Mitch beautifully rebel against societal conventions and their own eccentric personalities make for a slight, well-made little doodle of a film.
Starring: Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson. Directed by: Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz.