It seems as if there are over a dozen independent films released every year centered on 'life-changing' road trips, but few are as delightfully unconventional as "Land Ho!," a slight, but undeniably charming, comedy from directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens.
Paul Eenhorn and Earl Lynn Nelson star as Colin and Mitch, a pair of former brothers-in-law, both retired and in their sixties, who venture off to Iceland for a vacation.
Their various escapades are relatively low-key, but the minimalist plot, leisurely pace, and improvisational dialogue are what make this film so appealing. Very little happens in terms of story, and the character arcs are handled in relatively subtle fashion, but it all adds to the gentle authenticity of the picture, making these men and the various people they interact with feel all too real. It also makes the film's sly sense of humor all the more effective; the laughs sneak up on you from genuine interactions between these two friends who have great chemistry with one another throughout the course of their journey.
Eenhorn, in particular, conveys a gently empathetic sense of poignancy throughout the picture; his naturalistic facial expressions and bittersweet deliveries provide the film with soulful themes on the relentless yearnings of nostalgia that come with aging.
Nelson is a harder character to enjoy (his consistently sexist remarks when it comes to women may turn viewers off at first, as it did with this critic), but over time it becomes evident that his political incorrectness is part of the joke in regards to his character and the contemporary culture he exists in. There are even a few tender moments in which Mitch conveys a sense genuine warmth and compassion that prove he's not merely driven by his abrasive horniness.
In addition to the performances and intimate writing, the cinematography of the film is gorgeous, providing the viewer with breathtaking images of the Icelandic landscapes throughout the two protagonists' adventure, providing the viewer with the vivid details of its various settings as well as the mood of the dynamic duo within their scenes. The scenery conveys as much emotional depth as the dialogue for these characters, setting the tone appropriately for whatever amiable activity they are to partake in next.
"Land Ho!" may tread through familiar waters and feels a bit too inconsequential at times, but it's heartwarming outlook on these two characters making the most out of their old age is too endearing to be denied, and its casually sweet sense of humor alone makes it a trip worth taking. It's as joyful an experience for us as it is for Colin and Mitch themselves.