Nomadland Movie Review : Hauntingly melancholic portrait of loneliness, healing and introspection

Nomadland Movie Review

STORY: Following her husband’s death and losing his livelihood due to the Great Recession, Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman in her 60s, makes her RV her home and opts for a nomadic life. She roams the vast expanses of the US, taking seasonal low-wage jobs to maintain her minimalist lifestyle. Along the way, she meets elderly traveling companions for whom; the indefinite journey is not an escape but a way back to hope and healing.

Chloé Zhao’s profound adaptation of journalist Jessica Bruder’s book to the screen evokes deep thoughts and emotions about life, death, and everything in between. The intimate drama of the highway subverts the conventional perception of home, family, companionship, peace, possessions and a sense of belonging. When Fern is asked if she is homeless, she says, “I am homeless. I have a house (its avant-garde) ”. All your life you shove your way through the crowd, to make your future “safe”, but what good is that fight if you must sacrifice your present for it, with no guaranteed benefits in return? Youth keeps you busy and distracted, but old age highlights the tragedy of survival as death draws near.

Critical acclaim and Oscar buzz have made this quiet indie film by a 38-year-old Chinese filmmaker one of the most sought-after films of the season. Seeing grief-stricken seniors struggling to find work to stay afloat is not a pleasant experience. The slow pace and gloomy mood can be exhausting as they don’t filter out the tragedies surrounding isolation. Simmering poetic drama may therefore not warrant repetition of viewing, but it does have the resounding ability to strike a chord with everyone. At no point is the film intended to inspire. It only has a mirror of our society and it gives us control of reality in the wake of an economic crisis (2008). Inherently melancholic, Nomadland is an artistic portrait and exploration of wandering souls who want to be heard before leaving. His loneliness finds company and compassion in absolute strangers and fellow travelers, who do not believe in goodbyes, but “see you on the road.”

The spectacular cinematography of Joshua James Richards and the music of Ludovico Einaudi enhance the raw and earthy feeling of the story and the landscapes you observe. They give voice to the van, the road, the mountains, the rivers, the deserts and even the folding chair that gives Fern a moment of peace and stability. As an elderly single woman whose kind gaze contradicts her eccentric personality, Frances McDormand delivers a heartbreaking performance as she lets her eyes do the talking. Zhao keeps the movie of her as authentic as possible by featuring real-life nomads (Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells) who reveal what keeps them on the road. Peace, the sanctity of nature and their desire to be one with the people they lost, prevents them from settling down.

Contrary to the common assumption that nomads seek comfort by “running away,” these are the people who want to work, earn a living, but lurk on the fringes of an aging, consumerist, and capitalist society. Freedom has a price. “You need to change your own tires, clean up your own shit, and take charge of your own lives.” A life alone is not a comfortable life. They may not stay in one place for long; but each has a mind that has not moved … from pain, loss or separation. Beyond his fight for survival, there is a heart that has not been healed. As Fern says, “What is remembered lives. I spent too much of my life remembering Bob (her late husband). “Nomandland rebuilds our faith in humanity and our ability to help others, heal, and survive because we are never truly alone. As Fern rightly concludes, ‘Eternal Summer Never will fade away … ‘

Directed byChloé Zhao
Produced byFrances McDormand Peter Spears Mollye Asher Dan Janvey Chloé Zhao
Screenplay byChloé Zhao
Based onNomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
by Jessica Bruder
StarringFrances McDormand David Strathairn Linda May Swankie
Music byLudovico Einaudi
CinematographyJoshua James Richards
Edited byChloé Zhao
Highwayman Films Hear/Say Productions Cor Cordium Productions
Distributed bySearchlight Pictures
Release dateSeptember 11, 2020 (Venice) February 19, 2021 (United States)
Running time108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 million
Box office$5 million

Nomadland Movie Cast

  • Frances McDormand as Fern
  • David Strathairn as Dave
  • Linda May as Linda May
  • Charlene Swankie as Swankie
  • Bob Wells as himself
  • Derek Endres as Derek
  • Peter Spears as Peter
  • Tay Strathairn as James

Nomadland Movie Trailer

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