As a child in the summer of 1960, Edward lives with his father on a Midwestern farm, with no mother in the picture and a palpable, almost lonely quiet around them.
One night, he and his dad watched something land in a field. Whatever has landed seems to unleash his father’s inner turmoil, and haunted the young boy as he grew into a man. Years later, Edward goes to unearth the truth of what just happened — and reckons with the legacy and shadow that it cast on him and his family.
This sci-fi short — by writer-director Josh Tanner and co-writer Jade Van Der Lei — has all the trappings of a classic in its genre, seemingly hearkening back to the 1950s, which its evocation of Cold War paranoia, pastoral innocence and UFOs.
There’s also an ambitious, adroit sense of craftsmanship in the camerawork, VFX and lighting that also fits within the genre norms, where all the technical elements of the film work together to evoke otherworldliness and awe at the film’s key moments.
But unlike many genre films, there’s also a meditative thoughtfulness to the writing and storytelling at the film’s beginning that takes its time to observe the main characters and their relationship. Like many sons, Edward craves the love and companionship of his father, who he looks up to as the source of stability in his life. Their father-son dynamic is closely and beautifully observed, showing their bond on their own terms, whether it’s through watching TV or eating dinner together or sharing silence as they stare up at the night sky.
But when something falls out of the sky and lands in a field on their farm, their quiet life together is interrupted. The small inner conflicts of Edward’s father noted quietly in the storytelling — a sense of failure, and a longing to make a difference as a man and would-be soldier — suddenly crack open. Edward then witnesses his father in a way he has never seen before, breaking the bond between them and shattering Edward’s innocence forever.
In the end, “The Landing” uses its genre elements — and its unexpected reveal — to tell a story about parental legacy, and about what happens when a child’s idealization of their parent comes crashing down and they see their dad at his most tortured and ultimately vulnerable. By taking the time and space to build up the historical moment and the characters — and taking the care to support the emotionally resonant writing with equally powerful performances all around — it ultimately offers a moving story about love and forgiveness, where we can look at our family in their full truth, and love them anyway.