Sweet Land (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/09/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Emotionally engaging, beautifully shot and impressively directed drama with strong performances from a fantastic cast.

What's it all about?
Based on Will Weaver's short story "A Gravestone Made of Wheat", Sweet Land begins in the present day, as Lars Torvik's (Stephen Pellinski) beloved grandmother Inge (Lois Smith) dies, leaving him the family farm. As he tries to decide whether or not to sell the land, he remembers his grandmother's life and the stories she told him - the film then flashes back to 1920, when Inge was a young, German-speaking Norwegian immigrant who arrived in Minnesota in order to wed a painfully shy Norwegian farmer named Olaf (Tim Guinee), as part of an arranged marriage.

However, Inge's German heritage and lack of official papers make the local community suspicious and she's forbidden to marry Olaf. Instead, she's taken in by Olaf's friends and neighbours, the Frandsens (Alan Cumming and Alex Kingston), but she soon takes it upon herself to move back in with Olaf and the two gradually fall in love.

The Good
Directed by Ali Selim, Sweet Land is strongly reminiscent of the work of Terrence Malick, particularly Days of Heaven. Shot entirely on location in Southern Minnesota, the film looks utterly gorgeous, courtesy of David Tumblety's rich cinematography.

Reaser and Guinee are superb as the two leads; since both characters can hardly speak English, they communicate with a series of looks and fragmented sentences, which works surprisingly well. This is heightened by Selim's decision not to include subtitles for the German and Norwegian speech.

The Great
The film also boasts a terrific supporting cast that includes Alan Cumming, Alex Kingston, Ned Beatty (as a local banker intent on taking the Frandsen's farm) and John Heard as the local priest. In addition, Selim orchestrates some striking sequences and some great scenes, such as: Olaf and Inge undertaking a huge harvest together; Inge teaching Olaf to waltz; and a Capra-esque moment that's straight out of It's A Wonderful Life.

Worth seeing?
In short, Sweet Land is an emotionally engaging and wonderfully acted indie drama that's well worth seeking out. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Sweet Land (PG)
Sweet Land has been reviewed by 1 users
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 08:08

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