Often before watching a new film, we see the trailer in preparation. We want to know what we are getting ourselves into so that we have an idea what to expect: this ritual has remained for decades. However, in the age of streaming, we are subject to constant recommendations for various shows and films that we often have no prior knowledge of. Going into a movie blindly can be interesting, but sometimes, and particularly in this case, it could be helpful for the audience to understand a few points prior to viewing. This may ease their curious minds of needless confusion so that they can sit back and enjoy the film.
Netflix’s new release, The Land of Steady Habits, an adaptation of Ted Thompson’s 2014 novel, falls under this umbrella.
Along with most Netflix Original films I see, I went into this one blindly, with no preconceptions or expectations. I spent the first half hour trying to figure out what exactly I was watching, because this film, as the title suggests, has a steady pace without any significant peaks. This added to my confusion, and I had trouble simply appreciating the film for what it was. I found myself over-thinking and over-complicating the film, which is not ideal and vastly unnecessary for a picture that mostly centres around tone and mood. It is a simple story, with easy-to-comprehend plot points that don’t really deliver much to the viewer aside from feelings of relatability, thus, room for one to gain perspective within their own lives.
I left the movie with an overwhelming sense that I just watched a film about my neighbours or family friends, or even, a projection of my family, captured in a natural and honest state of our day-to-day lives. This might sound like an unappealing concept for some people because we turn to movies to escape this very thing. However, I assure you, if you stick it out until the credits roll, you will gain something. Personally, I gained comfort.
Too often we can get caught up in existential anxieties that can make us question the importance of the foundations we have built in our lives. The Land of Steady Habits reminds us that there is joy to be found in these secure moments, joy that doesn’t quickly evaporate. Whether it be the bliss of maintaining sobriety, or having a home-cooked meal surrounded by loved ones, this film, through it’s minimalistic and straightforward approach, celebrates these ordinary life moments and highlights their unappreciated beauty.
One of the winning aspects of this film is the establishment of various relationships. It explores the bond between friends, casual lovers, divorcées and families. Historically, representations of these bonds have often missed the mark, portraying characters that are hard to believe or accept as authentic, but this film nailed it. In particular, the friendship between the matriarch’s of the film (Edie Falco, Elizabeth Marvel) is one of the most spot-on portrayals I have seen. I attribute most of this to the brilliant performances of these two actresses.
On the opposite end, I found one of the weakest aspects of the film to be the performance of the lead. Portraying a father and ex-husband going through a midlife crisis, Ben Mendelsohn’s performance is unfortunately underwhelming. With very little nuance or authenticity, he hinders any potential depth in a scene with his intense apathy. However, the younger cast members of the film (Thomas Mann, Charlie Tahan) beautifully make up for what Mendelsohn lacks.
It’s not hard to recognize that the film industry is changing. Audiences are resonating with films that are more life-like. More and more, we are seeing movies that represent and reflect the “ordinary” lives that many of us live. The Land of Steady Habits is a more than decent effort in this arena of content that is worth the watch.