Review: From a Strange Land

Written and directed by Caroline Steinbeis, an inquisitive retiree surprises her new neighbours to say hello; what she wasn’t expecting is that they would all be naked. Starring: Deborah Findlay, Matthew Needham and Amanda Abbington.

The incredibly clever element that this film achieves is that instead of going down a route of cringe comedy, that is so often found in British film, it finds natural humour and relatability. It’s lovingly simple yet layered, exploring how the sounds and atmosphere change from home to home. An aspect that’s wonderfully emphasised by the editing (by Rebecca Lloyd) and sound editing, there’s a definitive sharpness to the way it moves back and forth, which brings this bubbling energy that’s almost infectious. The aesthetic it presents feels like it takes real advantage of a stunning natural light, everything is captured almost in a glow, especially within the new neighbours’ home. Considering that the film does involve nudity, it’s careful to do so in a way that’s graceful not gratuitous, it remains minimal while still able to build that edge to the story. Throwing in classical music adds a flair for the dramatic, leaning into the film’s fun side.

Steinbeis’s writing here feels like a representation of the simple pleasures in life and a reminder to not take yourself or others too seriously. It has the story move in such a way that it highlights the details, nothing much has to happen and yet you’re still entranced by it. It doesn’t try to over-emphasise, it finds the awkwardness that’s inherent but uses it in a way that’s touching almost, framing it as a communal experience. It creates that feeling of a moment you know is going to be a funny story to tell people later, not just showing it to you but truly getting across the atmosphere and connection.

Findlay, Needham and Abbington here have the task of getting across the personalities of their characters without really saying anything and it’s something they all achieve effortlessly. Starting with Deborah Findlay who easily demonstrates her character’s attention to detail, generosity and curiosity. Needham and Abbington display loving, carefree, kind and enthusiastic qualities to their characters, even in the brief, moving glimpses you get of them. When the three finally come together, they really manage to say a lot with their facial expressions, their interaction loses nothing for not having dialogue, you can sense everything they would say and how they’re processing this awkward, unexpected moment.

From a Strange Land is clever, funny and relatable. Caroline Steinbeis manages to create something that brings out both a stunning example of how the sounds and sights of every home are unique and a natural awkwardness with warmth and humour. It’s shot, scored and edited in a way that feels genuine, fun and loving; it brilliantly dives into these characters with barely a word. Of course, that’s helped by the superb casting of Deborah Findlay, Matthew Needham and Amanda Abbington. It’s simply a satisfying and sweet experience that leaves you with a smile.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10

Currently showing at festivals, so keep an eye out for this one!

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