Like What If, Land Ho! isn’t a film attempting to disguise its familiarity to audiences. We’ve all seen road trip cinema before and know what to expect: scenic vistas, moments of turmoil between travelers soon resolved, epiphanies reached while basking in the glory of Gaia’s vast expanses. Where Aaron Katz and Martha Steven succeed with their jazzy variation on this theme is in the small details – warm lead performances, dialogue and conversation whose unstructured feeling gently indicate hidden reservoirs of emotion instead of accessing them directly and a delicate pacing that doesn’t overstate its case, simply content to follow these men on their Icelandic ramble and gently observe.
Colin (This Is Martin Bonner’s Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) are former brothers-in-law. A divorce on Mitch’s end and the untimely passing of Colin’s wife separated them from one another over time. They reunite after years apart, with Mitch springing a surprise Icelandic vacation on Colin in an attempt to rouse him from the torpor of a recent separation. These two elder statesmen make a dynamic pairing. Colin is the more reserved of the two, an Australian emigrate/aesthete while Mitch is an outsized Southern personality, crass and outgoing, always ready with a bawdy joke or joint. Much of the film’s pleasure is in watching these two personalities coexist in the frame, as both performers strike an easygoing chemistry that proves undeniably appealing.
While both men have vulnerabilities this road trip will eventually lay bare, they spend most of their time making non-profound observations about their surroundings (Mitch’s viewpoint is distinctly phallocentric, so I probably don’t need to explain his viewpoint on lighthouses or geysers to you) and discussing movies one or the other have seen. There’s a hesitance in cinema to have characters engage in discussion about the very thing they’re taking part in, but it doesn’t ruin the illusion of the story being told here, in only heightens the casually realistic feel of old friends reconvening after time apart. The film, much like its characters, is in no hurry to reach this trip’s terminus. While the deliberate pacing and lack of plot proves anathema to some, it makes for an excursion I would happily go on again.