Film fans and cinephiles the world over revel in the joy that is “awards season.” As the heat of summer passes and the bite of fall enters the air, everything in the movie industry suddenly shifts. Even though this year isn’t like any other, over the last number of weeks an unmistakable feeling has settled in. The new releases feel just a little more “Oscar bait-y.” One of 2020’s most anticipated awards season pictures recently hit festival circuits with a vengeance, and we here at Geek Girl Authority finally got a chance to check it out. Here’s everything you need to know about Nomadland.
Nomadland is a slice of life following Fern (Frances McDormand). Rapidly coming to the wrong side of middle age, she found her life upended after the gut punch of not only loosing her husband, but also her home and job in a recent economic downturn. With few available opportunities Fern renounced everything holding her back, instead, choosing a mobile lifestyle. She lives in her van and works migrant jobs as she finds them. McDormand stars opposite David Strathairn and a cast of real life nomads. Chloé Zhao directs the movie from her own script.
With this movie, Zhao continues to establish herself as one of the most talented directors working in the industry today. She received tremendous acclaim for her 2018 drama The Rider, and her work is soon to be seen in Marvel’s The Eternals. Zhao masterfully crafts the tone of Nomadland, from its somewhat meandering script to its tender and heartfelt characterization, making the movie an utter joy to watch.
Interestingly, Nomadland isn’t simply an examination of the economic or political structure of contemporary United States society. On face value, the movie seems like it’s going to be a critique of the forgotten in our society. However, it’s more complicated than that. These people aren’t passive victims of circumstances. Instead, Zhao focuses on these characters as members of this fascinating nomadic community. Many of them have personal struggles, and like everyone, experienced their fair share of tragedy. However, they gain strength from this chosen lifestyle. As Fern mentions early in the film in a beautiful moment, she isn’t homeless, she’s “houseless.”
Frances McDormand once again shines on screen as Fern. McDormand is consistently a workhorse in every role she takes on and critical acclaim rightly follows. Her performance in Nomadland is all at once so studied, yet at the same time stunningly effortless. She thrives in the naturalistic construction in which Zhao is also at her best. Nomadland’s tone is quiet and peaceful. In fact, it’s easy to loose yourself in the subtle, meandering action. The movie is a love letter to life on the road and at times feels like an intimate, two person effort between Zhao and McDormand. The literature surrounding the feature paints a distinct picture, describing Nomadland as an experiment in filmmaking with McDormand and the crew living out of vans as they worked.
As mentioned above, Zhao thrives working in a highly naturalistic tone and often uses non-professional actors in her movies. Untrained actors can sometimes struggle. However, real-life nomads Linda May and Swankie give beautiful performances and truly gel with the seasoned, Oscar-winning McDormand. Swankie in particular is already receiving plenty of awards buzz as the movie nears release. The stars may shine, but in her incorporation of these untrained performers, Chloé Zhao paints a beautiful picture on screen. In truth, it is May and Swankie who are the heart of Nomadland.
Nomadland is currently in the middle of a lengthy film festival roll-out as it approaches whatever its release will look like this winter. This reviewer has stopped trying to guess. Over the last number of years, Chloé Zhao has emerged as one of the best filmmakers working their way up in the movie industry and she keeps breaking new ground. Nomadland packs such emotion and heart into a script which feels almost effortless on screen. Film fans, cinephiles and awards season followers should definitely add this little gem to your lists. This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing of Nomadland this awards season.
Nomadland is currently slated to open December 4th.