Nomadland smashed onto the film scene last year and went on to sweep the Academy Awards, netting a nomination for Best Picture.
Is it still worth grabbing a ticket to this timely drama?
People look like small dots in the sprawling wide shots of American deserts and rural towns of Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. In the film, Fern’s husband passes away shortly after the collapse of their hometown of Empire in Arizona.
Harsh white sunlight hits snow and fills these early scenes with a bleary-eyed sorrow. The husband’s remains are loaded into a car as Fern leaves Empire to drive across American in search of work.
Frances McDormand’s career-best performance grounds the film’s complex feelings about grief and the desire to escape from its weight.
Without any human link to the world, Fern fills the time doing back-breaking work at an Amazon warehouse. Co-worker and real-life nomad Linda May tells Fern about a meeting that will take place in the Arizonan desert.
Far from the urban sprawl with its urban problems, this life would seem like paradise to some viewers. Even more, hours are getting scarce for Fern, with legions of workers already filling the Amazon center.
Any notion of the American Dream ends quickly as the film goes on to press the bigger issue: what’s next? The answer seems to be with the film’s nomads, a commune full of lost souls who live in mobile homes and travel where they please, living off the land.
They support Fern throughout the film, having had tragic events take place in their own lives. People, not places are missing from Fern’s life and hope comes in the rare moments of bonding with the other nomads.
At the end of the day, Nomadland is about common people and their daily lives — non-actors fill the cast list, and their talents result in natural, moving scenes.
Each character is given real depth, lending the film a documentary-like feel.
Despite being an American film at heart, the film struck a nerve with all audiences because of its take on modern issues. Unsure times drive the nomads to find meaning outside of the current order, together.
Empire is left a ghost town after a local mine shuts down and it can no longer fulfill market demands.
Nomadland’s slow pace matches Fern’s point of view, she slowly recovers from the sudden mental and lifestyle changes caused by this pain.
Chloe Zhao’s style may not be for thrill-seekers, but the director’s slow, patient look at loss and country in the modern day is too rich to ignore.
Where: Event Cinemas Academy Award Series / Dendy’s
When: April 2021
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