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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Sweet Land

MOVIE REVIEWS

SWEET LAND (2007)

Starring Elisabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Alan Cummings, Lois Smith, Ned Beatty, John Heard, Tom Gilroy, Alex Kingston, Robert Hogan, Karen Landry, Patrick Heusinger and Paul Sand.

Screenplay by Ali Selim.

Directed by Ali Selim.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox.  110 minutes.  Rated PG.

125X125

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Sweet Land

Hollywood does not make enough films that can literally be called different, but Sweet Land is a legitimately unique film. 

Sweet Land is a love story based on the immigrant experience of the 1920s, however, it is not about passion or lust or even attraction.  It is the mating dance of two very different people who barely know each other but are thrown together by fate and learn to make the best of their circumstances.

Elisabeth Reaser plays Inge, a German woman who moves to the American heartland to marry Olaf (Tim Guinee), a man she has never met or even seen beyond a badly creased photograph.  She has never been to the United States, nor does she speak any English.  She is also forced to pretend that she is Hungarian because of lingering hard feelings about World War I.

Olaf is a farmer, quiet, stubborn, worried about appearances and very much introverted.  When they are unable to marry because her nationality comes to light, Olaf feels a mixture of responsibility for her and betrayal that she was not what she seemed.

Their relationship is taken in by the watching eyes of the town, including his best friend (Alan Cummings), a farmer living beyond his means who is the only person who seems to believe that Inge and Olaf should be together.  The local pastor (John Heard) vilifies them for living in the same home (though completely platonically) before marriage.  In the meantime Olaf's farm is put in jeopardy by a heartless banker (Ned Beatty).

Throw away any preconceptions you have about love stories.  Sweet Land is old-fashioned and pragmatic about romance, but it shows that necessity can foster connections much stronger than our slight ideas of attraction could ever.  Not that I, or mostly anyone would want life to go back to this way, but it is fascinating to see an example when an arranged marriage actually led to a lifelong bond.  They don't make movies like this anymore, and that is a shame.

Reaser, who has slowly but surely been making a name in films (The Family Stone, Sing or Forever Hold Your Peace, Puccini for Beginners) over the last couple of years, is a revelation.  She plays a part in which at least 75% of her dialogue is in either Hungarian or German and feels completely natural and realistic at all times.  It is a shame that Sweet Land came out so early in the year and with relatively little notice, because Reaser is deserving of some serious Oscar buzz come next February.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: July 10, 2007.

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Copyright 2007   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: July 10, 2007.