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‘Land Ho!’ celebrates the vitality of life

“Land Ho!” (2014). Cast: Earl Lynn Nelson, Paul Eenhoorn, Karrie Crouse, Elizabeth McKee, Alice Olivia Clarke, Benjamin Kasulke, Christina Jennings, Emmsjé Gauti, Amy Yoder, Halldóra Guðjónsdóttir. Directors: Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens. Screenplay: Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens. Web site. Trailer.

Keeping life interesting is something we’d all like to pursue. But that can become challenging, especially if we allow impediments and limitations to get in our way. It’s under those sorts of circumstances, then, that we must make a concerted effort to maintain the excitement and enthusiasm. So it is for a pair of retirees in the delightful, award-winning independent comedy, “Land Ho!”

Life is rather lonely for Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), a divorced, retired surgeon who’s having some trouble adjusting to being on his own with too much time on his hands. He finds he can spend only so much time on housework and cooking and looks desperately for some kind of diversion to bring a little excitement into a life whose days are, for what it’s worth, beginning to wane. Ironically enough, upon receiving some sad news, he gets an idea.

When Mitch learns of the passing of his ex-wife’s sister, he gets in touch with her surviving husband, Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), not to just to express his condolences, but also to put forth a proposal. The two brothers-in-law, who had once been quite close, drifted apart when Mitch and his wife separated and when Colin’s wife became ill. To rejuvenate their routines and get back into life, Mitch announces that he’s sprung for an all-expense-paid trip for the two of them – to Iceland.

“Why Iceland?” Colin asks. “Why not?” Mitch responds. It’s quite a departure from what one might expect out of this duo. But then Mitch, an unabashed Southerner, and Colin, a reserved Australian, are a seemingly mismatched pair to begin with. So now, as they head off to a destination about which they know virtually nothing, the seeds of an adventure waiting to unfold have been firmly sown.

Mitch and Colin begin their journey in Reykjavik, where they tour a contemporary art gallery, sample upscale fusion cuisine and partake of trendy nightlife. They also spend time with Mitch’s young cousin, Ellen (Karrie Crouse), and her friend, Janet (Elizabeth McKee), both of whom just happen to be passing through Iceland at the time. They then take off on an SUV road trip across the island, visiting geysers, black sand beaches and a luxury spa. During the course of their adventure, they also meet a host of colorful characters, including a pair of young newlyweds (Benjamin Kasulke, Christina Jennings), a nightclub reveler fascinated with glow sticks (Emmsjé Gauti), an attractive Canadian photographer intent on taking their pictures (Alice Olivia Clarke) and a pair of flirtatious hot springs companions (Amy Yoder, Halldóra Guðjónsdóttir). For two aging gents with little excitement in their lives, the trip proves to be affirming, rejuvenating and, above all, fun.

And why shouldn’t it be fun? Many believe that the elderly should be content to sit back in their rocking chairs and keep still. But many seniors would beg to disagree, especially Mitch and Colin. As the film begins, Mitch may be a little more eager to pursue adventure and new experiences, but, as the story progresses, Colin definitely gets into the swing of things.

Seniors looking to create more active lifestyles for themselves can assuredly do so as long as they believe they can, thanks to the conscious creation process, the philosophy and practice responsible for manifesting our reality. In many ways, this requires that we embrace beliefs that push through perceived limitations, not only in terms of what we think we can accomplish, but also in defying the expectations that others hold about such intents. It can be easy to allow others to paint us into belief corners, but those circumstances need not become consciousness traps, as long as we choose to prevent that from happening.

This becomes undeniably apparent in the dynamic duo’s often-outlandish behavior. For example, Mitch isn’t afraid to express himself with well-placed expletives, openly comment on the physical attributes of the women who cross his path and even light up a joint now and then, actions that many might find appalling coming from someone who’s expected to behave in a reserved fashion. But Mitch (and eventually Colin) won’t hear of it; he’s determined to be himself and refuses to let belief limitations and expectations hamper him from enjoying himself.

It’s refreshing to see the release of more films depicting seniors in a different light, and the number of pictures showing them more engaged in life well on into their supposed sunset years has been steadily increasing in recent years. Besides “Land Ho!,” one need only look to such other examples as “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” “On My Way,” “Le Weekend,” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel. As the population ages (especially those of the Baby Boom generation), this is a most welcome development.

In addition to its alternative portrayal of senior life, “Land Ho!” also provides a different take on road trip movies, the filmmaking genre that’s particularly effective at exploring our personal evolution, what conscious creators refer to as our constant state of becoming. In this picture, that notion particularly applies to Colin. As a lonely widower, he initially seems content to live out his life in quiet solitude. But, as someone who appears remarkably vital for his age, Colin is far too young to rot away in seclusion, and Mitch realizes this. He successfully encourages his partner-in-crime to adopt a renewed outlook, one that re-engages him with life and reveals that the joy we experience is directly proportional to the effort we make to see it realized in our everyday existence.

In a similar vein, the film’s narrative maintains that we should always be explorers, no matter how old we get. Most conscious creators would agree that part of the reason we have chosen to incarnate physically is to explore the various experiences that this form of existence has to offer, so, naturally, we shouldn’t hesitate to avail ourselves of the opportunity. While this is certainly true for all of us who become physical, some would contend that this is an especially important concern for the male of the species, particularly as the clock begins to wind down. Living the life of an explorer, metaphorically speaking, helps to keep us vital and young at heart, especially for those who may be losing sight of the value of such pursuits.

Exploration also enables the joy of creating and having new experiences. Again, this is at the heart of living life as physical beings, and, as Mitch and Colin demonstrate, it’s something to be relished. When all is said and done, our time in this realm of existence goes by so quickly that it could be easy to miss out if we don’t take advantage of the opportunity. Mitch, in particular, realizes this now that his days are dwindling, and he vows to make the most of it while he still has the chance. It’s a belief mindset we should all consider, particularly if we foolishly start to take it for granted.

“Land Ho!” is a surprising little gem of a movie, full of unabashed fun, even if it’s not always particularly politically correct. Some might see it as little more than a buddy movie involving a pair of dirty old men, while others may just as easily see it as a victory lap for a pair of fun-loving adventurers. Personally, I choose the latter interpretation, especially in view of the conscious creation principle that maintains all probabilities for physical existence are possible, with this story merely representing just another of those infinite permutations.

The picture’s playful protagonists and beautiful cinematography, as well as much of its improvised dialogue, make for an enjoyable viewing experience. The results are especially impressive given that the film was put together on a shoestring budget and a tight time frame. It obviously impressed, too, given that the film received this year’s John Cassavettes Award in the Independent Spirit Awards competition, an honor that recognizes the best feature film made for under $500,000. The movie is available for viewing on Blu-ray disk and instant video streaming.

The next time you’re tempted to think that life has lost its luster, think about the example set by Mitch and Colin. The geriatric adventurers may not be able to do everything they once did, but they’re certainly willing to make the effort to keep things interesting. That’s not too much to ask of ourselves, especially when we consider the alternative. So grab that walking stick, get your swagger on and enthusiastically set sail for the escapades that are sure to await. You’re unlikely to regret it.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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