“Sweet Land” has a great cast with the likes of Elizabeth Reaser and Alan C*****g and is emotionally engaging, but it still failed to make certain connections. It could be because Olaf (Tim Guinee) was a slightly unpleasant lead whose stoic ways and lack of conversation fit the character a little too well, or it could be because the story (a family history set around a farmhouse where the modern day owners are debating on whether or not to sell) just wasn’t all that exciting.
Set in three different time periods, the film’s main story involves the German Inge (Reaser) coming to America to marry Olaf, who is not exactly the man of her dreams. She’s an outsider on the farmland and is reminded of it every step of the way. Throw in the stereotypically greedy banker (the always fun Ned Beatty), a man of the cloth (John Heard) who refuses to marry the couple because she lacks the proper paperwork and could be subversive (as if that’s a bad thing), and the obvious yearning by another man (C*****g), and you have a tale that is fine to watch but is ultimately unsatisfying. A lot like life, I imagine, but not so good when it comes to a film that’s nearly two hours long.
It’s doubtful that anyone wanting to see a period piece romantic drama would be irritated by the film. They will, however, come out of it hungry for more. There were so many good characters who were never fully realized that you can’t help but feel cheated, and it makes you wonder why the film couldn’t have been better edited to fit in more of the stuff that works and less of the stuff that felt like filler (not that there was much of that, but it was there).
You could do worse than “Sweet Land,” but you could also do a lot better.