Nomadland is a beautiful piece of cinema. A haunting film that feels like it is part-fictional film and part-documentary.
Based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Jessica Bruder about a new economic sector of primarily middle-aged and older people who have taken to the road as modern-day nomads — they live their lives out of their vans, campers, and cars. They follow seasonal work, like farms, restaurants, amazon warehouses, and recreational areas.
Living like nomads, going from place to place, as a form of self-sufficient living for these people, they find low-wage work that allows them to live and support themselves. For some, this nomadic lifestyle is their preferred way of living. There is a sense of freedom for them while they get to see the country and make friends along the way. But for most of these nomads, this lifestyle is the only chance for any meaningful life and the only option to support themselves.
Fern (Frances McDormand) is a fictional character who is grieving the recent loss of her husband. They lived in a company town, where all businesses and homes are owned by one company. When the company decides to stop operations and eliminate its entire workforce, all of the town residents are left jobless and have no choice but to relocate. There is a sad and tragic reality with these types of company towns built entirely around corporations and factories. When these companies folded or left town, entire cities were disseminated, leaving their population with nothing.
Fern abruptly goes from a comfortable life to hitting the road and joining these communities of nomads. She remains positive throughout her ordeal while maintaining that “she is not homeless, she is houseless.”She joins and befriends an established nomad culture who also goes from town to town looking for work. Real-life nomads featured heavily in this film, like Bob Wells.
Frances McDormand is exceptional here; Her most intense scenes are when she is all alone with no dialogue. She holds and commands the screen like no other.
Nomadland is an unapologetic modern American Western that shines a light and exposes a way of life in the United States. It is a framing device to the economic realities of the working-class people of this country and the failures of the American Dream. My only issue with the film is that it doesn’t really show all the intricacies and the everyday challenges of the nomadic lifestyle. Nevertheless, this film is an outstanding achievement by Director Chloe Zhao — capturing a powerful story of survival, grief, and the fragility of time and our human existence.
Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿
Nomadland (2020). Streaming on HULU.