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Sweet Land

September 9, 2010

Sweet Land (2005)
Director: Ali Selim
Actors: Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, John Heard

Synopsis: A Norwegian mail-order bride (Elizabeth Reaser) slowly wins the acceptance of her new, bigoted Minnesotan community.

Review: “Where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night” – Scott Fitzgerald’s lyrical climax to The Great Gatsby reminds me of this loving and warm little elegy to the American Dream that strikes me as one of the most distinctive and interesting of US indie features to be released over the last decade or so. Loosely depicting the travails of a Norwegian mail-order bride as she attempts to integrate with a bigoted provincial Minnesotan community, the film starts off beautifully and articulately with a complex flashback sequence that links three key moments in the woman’s life (her own death, the funeral of her husband, and her initial arrival in the US). This opening coda deftly underlines the narrative’s core themes of character, place and memory, and – despite a marginally tedious middle act that functions as a “comedy of manners” with Inge attempting to win acceptance from her would-be husband and wider community – the film’s transcendent interest in people and their relationship with the land, imprints itself long after the final credit has run. (July 2009)

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