DVD Review: ‘Sweet Land’

Sweet Land is one of those films that takes its time telling a story. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, either.

Reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s 2003 film Open Range (yes, he’s made at least one good movie in the last ten years), Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa (albeit on a much smaller scale) and Willa Cather’s novel My Antonia, Sweet Land is a pastoral love song to director Ali Selim’s Midwestern heritage. It’s a beautiful, touching film, simply told; it doesn’t worry about its running time (don’t worry, it’s under two hours).

What’s it about? The film takes place in 1920’s Minnesota. Inge (Elizabeth Reaser, The Family Stone) has finally made it from Germany to the US, arranged to be married to Olaf (Tim Guinee, who could pass as Nathan Fillion’s brother). From the train station to the chapel, Olaf and best friend Frandson (Alan Cumming) discover that Inge is not Scandinavian (as was originally thought). This seemingly inconsequential detail has massive ripples amongst the rural Minnesotans of Scandanavian descent.

When they arrive at the chapel, Minister Sorrensen (John Heard, Home Alone) discovers she’s German AND that she doesn’t have the proper documentation to even be in the US.

So Inge lives with Frandson, his wife Brownie (Alex Kingston, ER) and their nine kids. It’s not exactly what Inge expected, but hey, she’s the first to get the bath water.

Indifferent to what the townspeople might think, Inge begins living in Olaf’s house–she gets the bedroom, Olaf sleeps in the barn. This is when the film gets interesting: for a PG-rated film, you can cut the sexual tension with a knife. Their slow progression towards husband and wife is the true heart of this film, as we see them weave their everyday lives with each other.

What’s good about it? A great performance from Reaser, who in the film speaks German and Norwegian with impressive fluency. Guinee is superb as the hard-working farmer who leaves feeling emotion to others. And a tender performance by Lois Smith as Inge in her 70’s bookends the film.

This is a film about honoring one’s heritage. It’s about hard work, and refusing to be defined by the prejudices of others.

What’s bad about it? Some may view Sweet Land as having a liberal bent (big business and religion are the bad guys here). And, like I said ealier, the film moves at its own pace. Which means if you’re looking for something with breakneck pacing, you’re out of luck.

Perfect for: fans of traditional love stories.


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2 Responses to “DVD Review: ‘Sweet Land’”

  1. Martha Says:

    OK, this movie just arrived in the mail. I am excited to watch it. Have you gotten The Baxter, yet?

  2. Martha Says:

    LOVED IT!! It started out a little slower than I would have liked, but by the end, Jeff and I were hooked!

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