What’s a man to do when he’s beginning to feel his years? Grab an ex-brother-in-law and head for Iceland, of course. With Land Ho!, writer-directors Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz spin a lighthearted road trip that zips past like a landscape photo-op, but retains some of the particular charms of travel, those uneventful but gently thrilling evenings that linger in the memory.
Indie-movie veteran Paul Eenhoorn plays Colin, an engaging, self-effacing gentleman of a certain age, trapped in the gentle water-treading of his retirement years, ripe to rediscover life’s enjoyments and eternal straight man to Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson). Mitch is a harder sell, a broad and bawdy sort defined largely by his inability to speak to or about women without making someone uncomfortable. There’s loneliness behind it all, of course, but in such a casually aimless movie, watching Mitch get his jollies at the expense of friends and strangers alike requires no small level of indulgence. Part of the reason the film works as well as it does is thanks to Eenhoorn’s balance of quiet exasperation and broken-in camaraderie.
The banter’s offset by the occasional burst of quite literal editorial commentary: “I’m not sensitive about my age,” Colin assures a young dinner guest—smash cut to a nightclub. There’s also, no surprise, gorgeous cinematography—if there’s any question why Iceland would be their destination, it’s answered by Iceland itself. Director of photography Andrew Reed captures the misty curves and moody watercolors of the landscape with such fondness that every break to admire the scenery feels like the country itself is waking them up to possibilities. Against such a stunning backdrop, Land Ho! is a wisp of a road trip, spiriting us along through the discoveries of travel and the rediscovery of old friends.