MOVIE: Sweet Land (2005)

This is the most aptly-titled film I’ve seen since last Christmas when my Mom and I watched a reallllly crappy flick named Abominable. Because “sweet” is the absolute, most-perfect word with which describe this film. Sweet. Sweet. Sweet. With a cherry on top.

This simple, enjoyable tale is set in the 1920’s and is about a young German mail-order bride named Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) who arrives in Minnesota to marry a Norwegian farmer, Olaf (Tim Guinee). Added to the usual complexities that go along with, you know, BUYING a bride you’ve never met, the farmer (and, in fact, the entire town) is horrified to discover Inge’s nationality, as the U.S. is in the process of recovering from from its battles with Germany during World War I. The locals still believe that every German is duplicitous, and that German women in particular are all harlots and spies by their very nature. Even the minister refuses to have much to do with Inge, despite the fact he’s one of the few people in the town who speaks German.

As if her nationality isn’t controversy enough, it also turns out Inge’s immigration paperwork is a mess, which means she and Olaf can’t marry immediately as they’d planned. Yet the couple decide to live together in Olaf’s house anyway, which, as you can well imagine, raises many an eyebrow anew amongst the townsfolk.

As Olaf and Inge begin to spend more time together, working to get the harvest in, they gradually begin to fall in love. And when Olaf makes an enormous sacrifice to try to save the farm of his best friend Frandsen, who fell behind on his mortgage, the town ultimately begins to thaw out a bit, giving us hope they might one day embrace Inge as one of their own at last.

This movie has a few problems — the acting isn’t always very good (though Reaser is fabulous, Guinee is a bit blah — it’s too bad ex-Boyfriend Dan Futterman, originally cast in the part, had to pull out to make Capote (he wrote the screenplay), because I would’ve loved to see him in this role), and sometimes scenes seemed awkwardly written and kind of clumsy as well. (Kind of like my last sentence — sorry.)

It’s also a little TOO sweet at times, making it feel a bit more Hallmark-movie-ish than independent-film-ish. (Also, for the record, Alan Cummings gives me the absolute creeps, even when he’s playing someone really nice, as he does here. I can’t help it — I just really really don’t like that guy’s face.)

Nevertheless, Sweet Land is beautifully filmed, with brilliant colors and wide angles of the vast, open land and big blue skies. And, since my own background features Norwegians in Minnesota, I enjoyed that element as well.

Overall, it’s not a flawless film, but it’s still extremely entertaining, made me all weepy at the end, and left me feeling satisfied and happy when I was done. Definitely a chick flick, but one well worth renting.

Netflix me | Buy me

Genre: Romance/drama

Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinne, Alan Cummings, Ned Beatty, Alex Kingston, John Heard

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