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Nomadland

Fern (Frances McDormand) finds herself out of work when the sole industry in Empire, Nevada, closes down. She outfits a van and hits the road, traveling around the Western United States. She takes on various jobs, including seasonal (Christmas) work in Amazon warehouses, restaurants, and as a park caretaker; she is too young to retire and is not ready to stop working. She meets other nomads along the way, most of whom are not trained actors and actual people who are on the road for a variety of reasons. I loved the movie. McDormand is amazing; she disappears into her character, and if you didn’t know, you would think she was actually a “nomader” as well; she captures so well the internal restlessness that propels Fern and keeps her moving and alive. What I really liked about her performance, and this probably has as much to do with the choices of the director, is that McDormand is at once giving an amazing acting performance and being something of an anthropologist. Her “fictionalized” character is eliciting some honest and sometimes striking dialog from the real-life characters she is engaging with. There is something about this, at least for me, that elevates her craft as a supreme actress. Through her interactions with Linda, Swankie, Bob, and the young kid (I cannot recall his name) she meets, we not only learn more about what drives Fern, but we also learn a lot about the people who are in this lifestyle, many of them driven to the road as a result of the Great Recession. The cinematography, of course, is beautiful with all of those great panoramic shots of the American west, and the score is absolutely beautiful. The Director, Chloe Zhao, has a way of capturing the heart and mood of change in her films, and she does it brilliantly here as well. There was only one aspect of the film, which I won’t mention, that I found distracted from the stream of consciousness of the film. Big thumbs up from me for a great film with great performances and immense beauty, visually and in the other people living on the road. If you like this, watch her previous film, “The Rider”, which I think is the better film of the two. (2020; 4.5 Stars)

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