Sweet Land Movie Review
In a vaguely present time, we meet old Inge (Lois Smith), mourning the dealth of husband Olaf. After much wringing of hands, she remembers back to the time of their meeting in 1920. Fresh of the boat from Deutschland, young Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) is picked up as a mail-order bride by young Olaf (Tim Guinee) and best pal Frandsen (Alan Cumming), and they head straight to the church to get married. When the preacher (John Heard) finds out she's German, he refuses to marry them. This becomes the central conflict of the film: Inge is shunned in town, can't return home, and can't live with Olaf out of wedlock (darn society!!!). They're soon both outcasts, and harvest time approaches...
This, surprisingly, is really the entire content of Sweet Land. (It's based on a short story, so perhaps that shouldn't be so shocking.) But the whole film feels so plodding that it tests the pateince of even the most enthusiastic fan of historical romances. It's the kind of film where 15 minutes is spent with Inge wondering what Olaf looks like (initially she thinks Cumming's Frandsen is her guy, whoops!). The movie is later filled with church sermons and scenes of cutting wheat, threshing wheat, bagging wheat, and selling wheat. It's not a film to watch when you're tired.
Often, this methodical pace actually works, but the content of Sweet Land is ultimately so thin it's hard to care much what the end result is. Not that we don't already know exactly how the movie ends: It's set up in the opening sequence.
As a featurette on the film's DVD puts it, this is a "labor of love story," and second-time director Ali Selim obviously found some resonance with this tale. Exactly what that was, you got me.