I just finished watching "SWEET land." I have seen the ads for this movie on Gather. (Those ads certainly did not disappoint with "Waitress," so why not give another a chance?) SWEET land bills itself as a love story and it's now available on DVD.
This movie, based on the back-of-the-dvd blurb, seems like a classic chic flik. It's a old-fashioned romance story that teels the story of Inge, played by Elizabeth Reaser. Inge comes to Minnesota from Germany as a mail-order bride. Her new husband is also an immigrant. The two are met with some prejudices that will surprise many viewers. Their local paster refuses to perform the marriage because of Inge's German background. (The film is set following WW II).
After watching the film, I see that this description is a little misleading. While it is a great love story, it's so much more. And it takes America back to a suupposedly simpler time that, through this movie, we see wasn't actually simple at all. SWEET land is one of the best love stories I've seen in a long time, and the love needs the full two hours to develop. But the movie takes on a very different theme after the marriage is forbidden. Hoping to take advantage of the situation faced by new immigrants, Ned Beatty appears as a ruthless banker ready to foreclose on the land of Olaf's close friend. (BTW, this is one of Beatty's best performances in a long time. I'm glad to see independent film makers willing to give some Hollywood giants a chance to work.) Olaf feels a need to stand up for his friend, even though he and Inge stood alone.
This inspires the community. And, in the underhanded dealings and almost open battle between the banker and the farmers, even men who tune-out chik flicks will find themselves drawn in by the drama.
The stars of this film, with the exception of Beatty, are relative newcomers - at least to me. Tim Guinee plays the strong-as-nails Olaf, who tries to hide any feelings. Lois Smith and Alex Kingston are also featured. The acting is great. It's not overdone as sometimes is the case with indy films. This film also has beautiful photography and was by no means a "quickie" in production terms. I would have loved to see this on the big screen. The cinematography is great, with expansive shots from the heartland.
I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say it's heartwarming. And the movie does leave you with a rousing "love conquers all" feeling. Even though the film is set 50 years ago, it does parralell the struggles many communities are facing with immigrations today. It's an odd combination: a current issue played out with the perfect hindsight of history. The makers of "SWEET land" capture it perfectly. The movie may cause you to recognize some of your own prejudices and it serves as an excellent vehicle for conversation about the subject.
If you're one of those movie fans that listen to the critics, this movie should be on your list. It's one of the most awarded indie film since "Little Miss Sunshine." It's one several independent film awards, including a node for relative newcomer Reaser. This could indeed be a break-out performance for her. She plays a very emotional, yet reserved character and she seems to get it right on target. I would not be suprised to see her moving onto a blockbuster one day.
The movie is rated PG. It has some bad language, but I don't think most parents would mind even younger children seeing it, and I think many would enjoy the movie. If you're strictly into action fliks, skip it. But, don't let the movie's jacket (reminiscent of "Little House on the Prairie") fool you. SWEET land is full of drama, memorable characters and a very deep and thought-provoking story line.