Sweet Land: A Love Story (2006) is simple, tender love story set in rural Minnesota just after World War I. Inge (the lovely Elizabeth Reaser) is a mail-order bride from Germany who arrives to marry the shy and serious Norwegian-American farmer Olaf (Tim Guinee). The plan runs into a snag when the local minister (John Heard) refuses to marry them because Inge doesn’t have the right immigration papers. These papers prove hard to get due to her being German and the scare over socialism. Inge and Olaf attempt to muddle through as best as possible, slowly falling in love, but meet with increasing disapproval from the town folk and then are expelled from the church by the minister. When Olaf’s friend Frandsen (the comical Alan Cumming) house goes on the auction block, Olaf bids and wins the house even though he can’t afford. Olaf’s bold motion wins back his approval from the town and the minister.
This movie manages to be sentimental without being hokey. A couple of scenes remind me of other movies. When Inge and Olaf are thrown out of the church it’s similar to a scene in The Field, albeit less justified in this case. The town folk rallying to raise the money to help Olaf pay off Frandsen’s mortgage is of course reminiscent of It’s A Wonderful Life, except these restrained Minnesotans don’t join in singing Christmas carols unlike those rambunctious New Yorkers. The film includes a double framing device and it could do without both of them. First, Olaf and Inge’s grandson is mulling selling the farm after Inge’s death in modern day, then he flashes back to when Olaf died in the 1970’s for some wisdom from Grandma. The main story is great though, and so beautifully filmed. I almost want to travel to Minnesota this summer.