Watching director Chloé Zhao's (2018's The Rider) Nomadland was a poetic experience. Nomadland is a gem full of beauty and hardship, perfectly captured by Zhao's natural craft and actor Frances McDormand's raw talent. It's a richly textured portrait of life drifting through the American Midwest. One of 2020's best films.
Though my traveling days have been put on hold, right now, due to this global pandemic — I felt like I was able to virtually travel through the comfort of my home; while watching Chloé Zhao's beautiful work of art. Seeing Frances McDormand's character consistently on the road throughout the American Midwest was a gift to my soul and may have even brought a tear to my eye. Zhao masterfully captures the natural beauty of America through its vivid landscapes, roaming plains, and majestic horizons. Furthermore, Zhao does not forget to match this lively-shot film with a gut-punching storyline. After losing everything in the Great Recession, our film follows Fern (a powerful McDormand), a woman in her sixties who embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. Nomadland is a haunting portrayal of the hardships that life throws at us and an aching heart to heal that pain through travel. McDormand's character is a widow from a small mining town in Nevada that recently closed due to the Great Recession.
Fern is resistant to settling down, as we drift with her fighting spirit for the open-air and the longing for connection. McDormand authentically blended into the nomadic community so well that one of the local Targets offered her an application for a job during filming. McDormand's experience of living in a van took four months and covered seven states during production. She was also able to adopt a nomadic lifestyle of being constantly on the move to make the movie seem and feel more genuine. Nomadland plays out to be like a mini-documentary — showcasing other real-life nomads throughout the picture as fictionalized versions of themselves. This powerful character study will seep into your brain, leaving an enteral footprint on your mind. Zhao's newest craft was inspired by a recent 2017 nonfiction book (Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century) by the journalist Jessica Bruder. Zhao's third feature (2015's Songs My Brothers Taught Me, and The Rider) also won the 2020 Golden Lion Award at this year's Venice Film Festival, making it an early front-runner for the 2021 Oscars.
If Zhao gets nominated for Best Director (I think she should), then that would make her the first Asian woman director to be nominated in that category. Cinematographer Joshua James Richards' (2017's God Own Country, and The Rider) expansive outdoor scenery molds the wondrous and lonely structure of the American West. Nomadland jungles complexity, as we see a vast-open America and the forgotten people wondering around the dusty plains. The heavy-handedness of Zhao's film will sneak up on you until you are overwhelmed with emotions. Zhao masterfully weaves together this delicate balance of tone and story, while McDormand delivers another Oscar-worthy performance for the books. Nomadland embodies a vision of hope through progression, as Fern yearns for a day where she won't languish in the pain by this capitalistic country that's weighing down on her. Through emotional readiness drifting throughout the wide-open spaces, Nomadland embarks on a journey waiting to be told. I had the privilege of watching this perfect picture virtually in the comfort of my home during the 58th New York Film Festival. Nomadland receives a five-star review from me, as Zhao's latest feature symbolizes the 2020 message everyone is longing for ... hope. Until then, “See you down the road.”
Nomadland is rated R (Restricted). Some Full Nudity.
This masterpiece is directed by Chloé Zhao
Starring Frances McDormand and David Strathairn.
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