Starring: Earl Lynn Nelson, Paul Eenhoorn, Alice Olivia Clarke
Directed by: Aaron Katz (“Cold Weather”) and Martha Stephens (“Pilgrim Song”)
Written by: Aaron Katz (“Cold Weather”) and Martha Stephens (“Pilgrim Song”)
“Life is too fucking short…to sit still.” The honest line of dialogue spoken by one of the lead actors in the low-key comedy “Land Ho!” is an all-encompassing way to describe the motto of this lighthearted adventure by writers/directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens. Featuring two gentlemen in the twilight of their lives, it’s refreshing to witness Katz and Stephens awaken the soul of these types of characters who are usually tossed into cliché “geezer” roles when the script asks for a curmudgeon to yell out, “Get off my lawn!” Fortunately for art-house audiences, “Land Ho!” rarely takes the obvious route and instead aims to share a genuine friendship between two men who don’t seem like they’re ready to slow down any time soon.
In the film, actors Earl Lynn Nelson (“Pilgrim Song”) and Paul Eenhoorn (who was fantastic in last year’s under-seen “This is Martin Bonner”) star as Mitch and Colin, two former brothers-in-law who venture off to Iceland in an attempt to “get their groove back.” Mitch, a retired physician, who looks like he’s in his 70s but acts like he’s in his 20s, doesn’t take no for an answer when he presents Colin, a former orchestral French horn player fresh out of a bad relationship, with a plane ticket to the North Atlantic country to get him out of an emotional rut.
For much of the film, we watch Mitch and Colin do what two old guys would probably do if they went on vacation together – dine out, visit landmarks, take hikes, have conversations with each other and with strangers. Mitch, who turns out to be somewhat of a pervert (as playful and harmless as that can be taken), flirts with as many young girls he can find, including his younger cousin and her friend who they pick up at the airport for an evening out among adults.
While it may be easy to compare “Land Ho!” to director/writer Alexander Payne’s Oscar-winning 2004 buddy indie road comedy “Sideways” (Mitch seems exactly what Thomas Hayden Church’s character Jack would turn into in 30 years), it’s more reminiscent of another of Payne’s projects, the short film “14e arrondissement” featured in the 2006 compilation film “Paris, je t’aime.” In that short, a woman named Carol (Margo Martindale) takes a six-day vacation alone in Paris and thinks about life, death and love. It’s sweet, but has an air of sadness about it, too. “Land Ho!” might have a few more phallic-inspired jokes than it really needs (thank Mitch for pointing out that lighthouses remind him of cocks), but spending some time with these men feels familiar and pleasant, even when it struggles to be completely engaging.