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Documentary Review: 'This Land' Fails to Bridge the American Political Divide

2 good stories undermined by the inclusion of less interesting stories helps to doom 'This Land.'

By Sean PatrickPublished 2 years ago 4 min read

This Land (2022)

Directed by Matthew Palmer

Produced by Jim Cummings

Starring America

Release Date September 6th, 2022

This Land is an interesting and ultimately failing documentary that follows several different stories all set on election day of November 2020, the day that Joe Biden won election as the President of the United States. Biden’s victory over now former President Donald Trump was chaotic and divisive and remains a flashpoint in American history with warring factions still making claims and accusations to this day.

In many ways, America was never more divided than on that election day in 2020 when Americans went to the polls with a fiery passion, creating one of the biggest election day turnouts in history. This Land is an attempt by director Matthew Palmer and executive producer Jim Cummings to bridge the gap between right and left, Republican and Democrat, and get to the heart of why America has become seemingly so deeply divided.

All Americans, left and right, love dogs. That's the level or real discourse here.

Among the stories captured in This Land is the unique story of an elderly gay couple, a white man and a black man caught on opposite sides of the political divide. In an unexpected twist, the elderly black man is on the right and his partner is a lefty liberal. As they argue over politics each is reduced to soundbites about why they are on the side they are on. Friends and family are drawn into their conflict and tensions flare as election day rolls on.

The goal is to show that despite their disagreement, the disillusionment that both men feel about modern politics is what unites them beyond their voting for different candidates. After this day they no longer wish to talk about or think about politics. This is understandable frustration, especially considering that being an elderly interracial gay couple, politics will likely never leave them alone and hard decisions about marriage and end of life care decided by people in Washington D.C will have a profound impact on these men’s lives whether they want to talk about it or not.

The other story that should be its own documentary follows a man raising a son who has been diagnosed with cancer. On top of that trauma, this man’s partner, the mother of his child, was deported under President Trump’s crackdown on people who overstayed visas. Under Trump’s policy the woman cannot re-apply for a visa to return to America for 10 years, meaning that she won’t be there for her son’s cancer fight. The couple do what they can via Zoom and Facetime but the strain is clear.

On election day the husband is wrestling with these traumas as his overbearing Trump loving father is urging him to vote for the man who has divided his family. The man states early on that both he and his wife willingly went along with the deportation in order to be compliant with the law but now facing a monumental health crisis, the conservative resolve of this man and his wife is crumbling. Does this mean he will vote for Joe Biden, whose policies might allow for his partner to come home sooner? Somehow the man remains uncertain even after having cast his vote

As I said, that story should be its own documentary but director Matthew Palmer apparently could not see what he had in that story. So, instead of more focus on that or on the story of the elderly gay couple, we get a pair of bizarrely unnecessary stories. One follows the parents of an autistic child. That’s it. We mother, whom we spend the most time with, doesn’t appear to discuss any of her political feelings. There is no discussion of whether care for her son might be easier to get under one system than another or how being the parent of an autistic child has influenced the politics of the parents. Why is this story here? On election day, all we see is this mom playing with her adorable son.

The other story follows a rodeo clown in the south who loves Donald Trump and is excited to tell everyone about it. That he also claims to only love rodeo and not know anything about the issues of the day is glossed over. Instead, we hear the man make vague statements about how his conservative politics are the politics of rodeo as apparently only conservatives take part in or enjoy the rodeo. I guess I can see that but why that is treated as a revelation worthy of inclusion in a documentary is beyond me.

There is nothing particularly bad about This Land. Rather, the documentary is a more benign failure. The filmmakers fumble a pair of stories that should be their own documentary in favor of a more abstract narrative that attempts to encompass all of America and bridge the political divide in the same naive way that many centrists believe that left and right can be brought together if they just talk to each other. As if racism, misogyny, bodily autonomy, and LGBTQ rights are merely philosophical differences.

This Land will be available for digital on-demand rental on September 6th, 2022, 2022. Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews online at Follow me on Twitter at @Podcastsean and follow the archive blog on Twitter at @SeanattheMovies. You can also hear me talk about movies on the Everyone’s a Critic Movie Review Podcast on your favorite Podcasting app.

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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