Nomadland might tell an unconventional story, but thanks to Zhao’s careful hand and McDormand’s performance, it will resonate with all audiences.
Later this year (if theaters are open), Chloe Zhao will become the latest in a growing line of Marvel directors as her cosmic epic. Eternal is finally taking place. However, there’s a good chance it won’t even be his best movie of the year. While Nomadland is technically a 2020 release, it’s debuting on Hulu and in theaters this year, which means it’ll reach a wider audience now. Nomadland and Eternal Couldn’t feel any further away, but if the latter turns out with even half the heart of the former, it will be a success. Zhao, along with lead actress Frances McDormand, created something truly impressive with this film, which is based on the Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction novel of the same name. Nomadland might tell an unconventional story, but thanks to Zhao’s careful hand and McDormand’s performance, it will resonate with all audiences.
With the economic collapse of her small town in Nevada, along with the loss of her husband, Fern (McDormand) packs her declining things into a van and hits the road. Adopting a nomadic lifestyle, Fern moves from state to state according to the seasons (and job opportunities). It’s not an easy path, but Fern soon finds company among his nomadic companions, such as the welcoming Linda (Linda May, essentially portraying herself) and the serious David (David Strathairn). Fern lost almost everything, but found a new community in the process.
In terms of traditional plot, Nomadland doesn’t have much to say. Instead, Zhao’s storyline adopts a slice of life format where the audience moves with Fern through the everyday beats; they watch her clean the van (playfully named Vanguard), take on odd jobs, and wander the various nomadic settlements she finds herself in. Over all, Nomadland actually looks like a documentary. This qualifier might seem difficult to soak up Fern’s journey, but the opposite is true. Viewers are with him every step of the way, and every moment of his life is therefore deeply personal. Even something small, like broken plates, hits hard as if the person watching was Fern herself.
This is both because of Zhao’s gentle direction and McDormand’s deeply authentic performance. McDormand’s talent cannot be denied at this point; she presents herself as one of the best actresses of her generation, and Nomadland could very well earn him a third Oscar. With the smallest of gestures, she conveys everything Fern feels perfectly, whether it is the sadness that she left her late husband’s jacket in a storage locker or the joy of realizing that she has found her people. She doesn’t even have to say anything, as her facial expressions do all the work. In fact, McDormand’s performance doesn’t even look like a performance at all, but an extension of McDormand herself. This gives an additional level of authenticity to Nomadland this only enriches the procedure.
Although this is McDormand’s show, the supporting players who appear throughout Fern’s story are leaving their mark. Strathairn is kindly cautious of David’s approaches to Fern, and real-life nomads Linda May and Swankie give Nomadland a touch of humor and heart. Joshua James Richards’ camera makes good use of the sprawling landscapes Fern traverses, and Ludovico Einaudi’s score swells at the right times to emphasize these landscapes. In small hands, NomadlandThe sticker-like format may seem disjointed, but Zhao weaves it all into a compelling thread. There is not a thread out of place here.
At this point, it might sound like praising Nomadland is overkill. However, looking at it, it’s hard to deny that something special is happening on the screen. The calmer, more sparse approach may not seem appealing to everyone, but there is something universal about Fern’s story that leaves an impact on viewers. Zhao’s directing, coupled with McDormand’s impressive work, led to a much needed film about discovering joys in the little things, healing from devastating injuries and, above all, human connection. Today, these messages are more vital than ever. And even, Nomadland may well stand the test of time.
More: Nomadland Movie Trailer
Nomadland is now streaming on Hulu and playing in theaters. It lasts 108 minutes and is rated R for complete nudity.
- Nomadland (2020)Release date: Feb 19, 2021
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