Hollywood doesn’t make a lot of movies about older people. Rightly or not, studio executives tend to believe that only young and beautiful stars attract the all-important youth demographic to theaters. But what about the indie film world, which is full of artists who want be above the petty concerns of the marketplace? It’s hard to imagine a better source for original stories than the largely untapped world of senior citizens.
For proof, look no further than co-writers and directors Martha Stephens’ and Aaron Katz’s Land Ho!, a spirited indie road movie about two aging men, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), who agree to go on an Icelandic adventure. The film starts on a winning note just by embracing seniors as a worthy topic. Nelson, 72, is second cousin to filmmaker Stephens and a real-life New Orleans-based surgeon (which also describes his character in Land Ho!). His bountiful and bawdy personality inspired Stephens’ original idea for the film (“Earl Lynn in Iceland!”). Nelson and Australian actor Eenhoorn are appealing and believable as old friends with sharp differences who enjoy and tolerate each other in equal measure.
Mitch and Colin go camping, get stoned, flirt with much younger women and visit an urban art gallery. (The actors’ improvised and contrasting interpretations of paintings are a highlight of the film.) Shot in 18 days and edited in six weeks, Land Ho! makes a virtue of its modest scale and limited ambition. It’s a simple story about finding oneself even when it feels like it might be too late. The ancient Icelandic landscape is stunning, and its timelessness supports the story’s themes. But the film does start to run out of gas before it ends. There are too many scenes of spry, frolicking codgers spontaneously dancing in the great outdoors. And by the time we get to a second hearing of Big Country’s eponymous 1980s anthem, the film has begun to wear out its welcome. Imperfections aside, Land Ho! makes a strong case for more movies about people of a certain age. We’ll all get there eventually, if we’re lucky.
Land Ho! begins an exclusive run today, August 22, at Canal Place. More info here.