Nomadland is a slow burn, character-driven story that showcases the beginnings of one person’s solitary journey.
It captures the essence of what it means to be connected to the earth and to embrace your roots.
Nomadland’s vast landscapes cover thousands of miles, from desert to deep forest. Beneath the beautiful imagery, however, is a story about the need for connection in such isolation.
Frances McDormand leads a cast of real-life nomads Swankie, Linda and Bob, in their first acting roles. Her toned-down and relaxed performance as Fern rightfully won her a third Oscar for Best Actress (Fargo, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
The film begins with Fern emptying a storage unit as she grieves for her husband, before taking off in a van she has renovated into a home.
She bounces around temporary jobs to make ends meet while meeting people who influence her journey to becoming a nomad. Suburbia makes her restless when she’s confined to having a roof over her head and is forced to visit her sister to borrow money to fix her van.
She’s a free spirit, seen throughout the film in montages of her travelling the USA, contentedly frolicking among rocks and floating in serene lakes.
Her isolation and loneliness are apparent, revealing themselves in intimate moments—folding her underwear or nostalgically looking back on baby pictures.
Nomadland is based on Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction novel of the same name, which follows the exploration of older Americans as they adopt a new lifestyle following the work crisis of 2009. The film is fictional, but blends in real-life elements and stories to give the narrative a feel of authenticity.
Nomadland is minimalistic and subtle in a way that could have been boring, but in Zhao’s capable hands, it’s great cinematography.
All aspects from filming techniques, editing styles, composition and performances mesh perfectly into a simple but effective work.
The simultaneously epic and raw film delves into grief and finding yourself—so find yourself in theatres to watch Nomadland, a must-see for 2021.