A woman in her sixties named Fern (Frances McDormand) embarks on a journey through the Western United States after losing everything in the Great Recession, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
Although she has only made two feature films in the past, Chloé Zao has already made quite the name for herself in the industry with both Songs My Brothers Taught Me and The Rider. But her latest feature takes the cake for being her true masterwork. Nomadland is an extremely quiet and meditative movie. Don’t go into the film expecting there to be some humongous, epic scene where something unbelievable happens. If you do, you’re going to be immensely disappointed.
Instead, I recommend going into Nomadland expecting it to be a peaceful movie about one woman’s journey throughout the United States as she travels around in her van, which just so happens to be her home. For some people, this will come across as a pretentious and extremely boring movie to watch.
And if you end up truly hating this film after watching it, I can see your point. A lot of people require their entertainment to be jam-packed with action and excitement, and that’s okay. But those that are okay with a more laid back and easy-going journey are going to have a tremendous time with Nomadland.
It’s funny because I have never been a “nomad” and I don’t think I ever will since I just couldn’t be away from electronics and movies for the rest of my life, but I had a strange and beautiful connection to this film. Ever since I was about six or seven years old, my family and I would embark on long car trips to the United States and beyond. We would be in the car for days and sleep at various campgrounds, then in the morning, we would head back out to get just a little bit closer to our endpoint.
I know what it’s like to live in a car for a few days, and so this movie kind of reminded me of all those camping trips from years past. It brought back such amazing and happy memories, and I feel like that’s one of the biggest strengths of Nomadland. There’s something oddly relatable about the whole thing, even if you’ve never found yourself in the exact same situation that our lead character Fern is in.
And speaking of Fern – Frances McDormand delivers a wonderfully reserved yet still remarkably powerful performance yet again. Ever since the start of her career, she has been churning out dozens of phenomenal performances, and her role in Nomadland is no exception. Don’t be surprised if you see McDormand and Nomadland in general at the upcoming Academy Awards.
There’s honestly not a whole lot of things to complain about when it comes to Nomadland. But before I end this review, I want to quickly mention a smaller film that was released in 2020 called The Short History of the Long Road, which had a strikingly similar premise. Directed by Ani-Simon Kennedy, the film follows a teenage girl named Nola who travels around the country after losing her father, with no endpoint in sight. She travels from place to place and makes new friends and family along the way. Both films are immensely beautiful and feature outstanding lead performances.
Although I think I prefer Simon-Kennedy’s film to Nomadland, I would highly recommend you check out both movies if you want to sit back, relax, and watch two stories of nomads traveling the country. Just don’t expect to see any outlandish and exciting scene anywhere throughout. Sometimes the most impressive movies are the ones that have few words, and tend to be more reserved and laid back.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: R for some full nudity
Directed by: Chloé Zhao
Distributed by: Searchlight Pictures
Release Date: January 29, 2021
Running Time: 108 minutes