As a rule, movies are dominated by the young. So LAND HO!, a gentle Icelandic import about the adventures of two 70-something men on an impromptu walkabout, is refreshing.
This isn't a grumpy-old-men farce playing age for laughs. It's a genuine, observant, character-driven comedy.
Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) are old friends and ex-brothers-in-law—they married two sisters, since divorced or deceased. A recently retired surgeon from New Orleans, Mitch is gregarious and profane, a stubborn old bird who hasn't lost his lust for women, wine and weed.
Colin, a former classical musician turned bank manager in Australia, is quieter and perhaps sadder. He's happy to let Mitch take the lead when he proposes a trip to Iceland, just for the hell of it.
What follows is essentially a road movie. Mitch and Colin sample the delights of Iceland, from the museums and discos of Reykjavik to the hot springs and geysers of the rugged, lovely countryside. Many funny moments ensue, but they're not big moments. They're quiet and true. When the guys go out on the town with two young women, the jokes don't land where they would in a more mainstream comedy.
As the trip progresses, Colin and Mitch learn about themselves and each other. Beneath Mitch's randy good-old-boy act, he's terrified of retirement. And Colin finds that he's still capable of impulsiveness and joy. Through their companionship, both men plumb depths of emotional honesty that they would never have excavated otherwise.
With a feather-light touch, scenes rarely feel heavy or conspicuously poignant. That's all just under the surface funny business, thanks to a clever script by co-directors Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz. (N.C. School of the Arts alum David Gordon Green is executive producer.)
The film makes some subtle moves toward the end, too, when the guys encounter Nadine (Alice Olivia Clarke), a fellow late-in-life seeker on the chilly moors. Again, the story discards the usual plot formulas and digs deeper for a sweet, funny interlude. Everything is framed with beautiful cinematography of Iceland's majestic mountains, lakes and glaciers.
Land Ho! suggests that, contrary to received rock-and-roll wisdom, getting old isn't necessarily a drag. As Mitch advises Colin: "Don't worry, buddy. Good times are still a-coming."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Odd couples"