The Land of Steady Habits tells the story of a man going through a tragic midlife crisis.
Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn), the main character in The Land of Steady Habits, is actually someone you would summarise as hopelessly pathetic. He is a man that had everything; a wealthy suburban life, a loyal wife, and despite the fact that his son (Thomas Mann) is troubled, he had the opportunity to be the father that turned his son’s fortunes around. The Netflix film presents someone who believed that the grass was greener on the other side, but after leaving his wife, he realised who he is as a person. Anders is suffering from a selfish midlife crisis.
The Land of Steady Habits shows a man who is lost, which is shown in his useless sex life. Every sexual encounter is uncomfortable to watch. Anders believed that leaving his wife would solve his erectile dysfunction, but the woman beneath him tells a story. Anders is not a character that you will like, and you will not be able to imagine engaging with him on any social level. Amongst the grim comedy, that is the point. The audience is not meant to feel sorry for Anders; the Netflix film is framed such that you are purposefully judging him.
As the drama progresses, you soon realise that Anders is climbing further into an oblivion with consequences that are tragic. He befriends drug addicts and attempts to bond with his son in nonsensical ways. At certain points, his nastiness consumes the scene, reacting angrily to the woman next to him in bed because he is incapable of having sex. The performances help, with the cast really setting the stall to support Anders’ demise. There is a lot to learn from The Land of Steady Habits, and I believe that lesson is to appreciate what you have, rather than becoming bitter and twisted with your own life choices.
And whilst there is a certain charm, The Land of Steady Habits reaches far too much into the gloominess of the main character. At times, I felt a little downbeat, wishing for the story to have some form of positive outlet. Even when scenes are lighter, there is an underlying depression that you can still feel taking over the scene. Yet despite that being the main route of the film’s problems, the final messages of the film are clear, without dialogue even needing to be spoken. Anders’ eyes tell all. The Land of Steady Habits shows the crisis of a middle-aged man, and he can only save himself.