Sweet Land

Rated 4.0

David Tumblety’s landscape-caressing cinematography alone might be enough, but Sweet Land succeeds most on the merits of its elegantly simple story, about how the arranged marriage between a German immigrant (Elisabeth Reaser, thoroughly appealing) and a young Norwegian farmer (Tim Guinee, sweetly sturdy) affects the couple and their socially conservative 1920 Minnesota farmland community. Adapting Will Weaver’s short story A Gravestone Made of Wheat, director Ali Selim, quite clearly a native Minnesotan, achieves a vital sort of regionalism that’s all too rare in current American independent films. He also has a way with actors, gently shepherding fine turns from leads and supporters alike—not least some remarkably moving work from Alan Cumming as a magnanimous neighbor and John Heard as a less magnanimous minister. Selim’s clever and well-deployed narrative strategy, combining Capraesque sentiment with Nordic-Minnesotan stoicism, earned him a slew of audience-favorite awards at film festivals throughout the country last year. He deserved it.