IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
R | 1h 48min | Drama | Feb 2021 (Argentina) | Movie
Metacritic: 96/100 “Must See”
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97% Certified Fresh (Critics)
Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Jessica Bruder, Chloé Zhao
Stars: Frances McDormand, Gay DeForest, Patricia Grier
IMDb summary: After losing everything in the Great Recession, a woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
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Reviewed by Jeremy
“I’ll see you down the road.”
Some movies are easy to watch, and some are just plain terrible and best forgotten. Not really an “experience” and nothing memorable to write about. But Nomadland is one of those films that sits with you and stays there for a long time afterwards. Nomadland will wake you up not with a slap in the face, but with a breath of clean, fresh, air taken straight from the wilderness this film explores.
It’s also a movie for the soul, one that can make you think about your life, where it’s going and where it’s not. It’s also deeply moving and might even make you think of your own mortality. It’s a beautiful, wild and even shocking view of a woman’s life that seems to come almost full circle as she battles with the grief of losing her husband, her livelihood and her sense of “self”. So what does she do to resolve these things? She packs up everything she can fit into a van and becomes a “rubber tramp” living a nomadic existence on the fringes.
Nomadland follows the story of a woman named “Fern” who is travelling the width and breadth of the land in her van-come-mobile-home. It isn’t something that she planned to do, rather one possible way to survive after losing everything. While she seems like she has things together, as her journey continues, we begin to see some of the smaller holes in her existence become larger and more difficult to resolve.
And through her struggles, we are transported right into the van, she has slowly moulded into something resembling a home. She has nicknamed her van “Vanguard” and with good reason. Her van is all she has left, the last semblance of her prior life slowly melding into her new one.
The one thing that Fern doesn’t seem to be is lonely, which is contrary to what most people would think of a nomadic existence. And to reinforce this, Fern forgoes her true nomadic ways and joins a group of other men, women and children who are all experiencing similar challenges in their own lives. These people become Fern’s people, her make-shift family for the time being. And they are accepting of her in every way. After all, they are people with their own stories and struggles who have found themselves drawn to the nomadic way of life living out of their vans, cars and campers.
Chloé Zhao has created something extraordinary with Nomadland. And Frances McDormand embodies the character of Fern in every way. You could not have asked for more perfect casting. While the film itself is not based on any “real” person, it does feature real nomads and rubber-tramps who bring an unprecedented level of realism to the story. The rest is taken care of by Zhao’s beautiful direction and the breathtaking cinematography.
Nomadland doesn’t cut corners, nor does it romanticise the difficulties of living on the road. There are ups, and there are downs. Finances are always a problem as many van dwellers work job to job as they travel from site to site. It is not the life for everyone, but it could be a decent life for those willing to embrace the nomadic way of life.
Inspiring, moving and through-provoking, Nomadland will be the one film everyone will be talking about come awards season. Do not miss out on seeing this film. If there was any movie worthy of seeing this year, it’s this.
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Freelance entertainment writer and reviewer. Visit my blog on https://thebrokenquill.com.