Nomadland (2020)

Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao
Based on: Jessica Bruder‘s book
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Tay Strathairn, Cat Clifford
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2020

Fern (Frances McDormand) used to live in a factory town. But after the factory closed, the town disbanded and after her husband’s death, Fern decided to hid the road. She customized her van and is now traveling through the USAmerican west, from temporary job to temporary job, finding companionship with other nomads like her.

With Nomadland, Chloé Zhao is now at three of three beautiful, touching films that shed a light on some of society’s most vulnerable people, the hardships they face, but also the resilience they have. I absolutely loved it.

The film poster showing the word NOMADLAND made up from five different licence plates.

Nomadland is a film about letting go of what we can and about what we’re not able to let go. It’s a beautiful meditation on that, tying it to the way we take care of each other, the way we relate to each other and how things don’t have to be permanent to be meaningful, and yet how the meaningful things have a way of making themselves be permanent somehow. It is lovely and thoughtprovoking there.

At the same time, Nomadland is also a hard, sharp, and very critical look at USAmerican society and how it often abandons or outright discards people (this is not a phenomenon exclusive to the USA, but the way shown here is very particular, I think). In approaching that topic, Zhao almost made a documentary, having most people play (versions of) themselves, mixing the two formats of fiction and documentary as she did in her earlier films already (and it’s probably no suprise that she adapted a non-fiction book for this one). (Speaking of Zhao’s earlier films: Cat Clifford makes a short appearance in this film as well.)

Fern (Frances McDormand) in the desert.

So, we get a thoughtful film about a difficult topic. We get a whole lot of social criticism. But the film doesn’t stop there. It is also beautifully shot and has a great soundtrack and it has Frances McDormand giving one of her best performances ever – and since she is always really good, that is really saying something.

Above all, Nomadland was touching and of a warm humanity that is so full of love, it makes the entire film simply an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Fern (Frances McDormand) walking across a campground.

Summarizing: Beautiful.

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