Sweet Land features the wholesome beauty and noble forehead of Elizabeth Reaser in the role of a mail-order bride advertised as Norwegian but in fact German, persona non grata in rural Minnesota in the days after the Great War. This actress caught my eye in a supporting part in Stay and didn't do much to hold it in a supporting part in The Family Stone. Here she proves she can carry an entire movie, even much of the way in unsubtitled German, provided the movie is not too weighty. (No weightier, anyway, than the gramophone and two suitcases she lugs single-handedly into the hinterlands.) Ali Selim, the writer and director, treats it as a Simple Folk tale, quaint, square, ingenuous, uncomplicated, unshadowed, only a scudding cloud or two of small-town small-mindedness. One might wonder how it would have been rewritten by that native Minnesotan of the day, Sinclair Lewis. One suspects that Reaser could have carried her share of that, too.

And that will have to suffice for 2006. Black Christmas and Charlotte's Web have escaped my scoop, but I trust that the moviegoers who are meant to find them will manage without me.


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