Friday, January 29, 2021


Nomadland is a quiet, contemplative film not unlike Into the Wild or Wild in which a character leaves behind the conventions of society in search of something their former life can no longer offer. In the case of writer/director ChloƩ Zhao's tale, adapted from the book by Jessica Bruder, our character is an older widow who has lost nearly everything in the Great Recession including the home she made with her late husband when the town completely collapsed.

Taking to the road in a van, we travel along with Fern (Frances McDormand), meeting a number of other people in the same position searching for a way to make due with the little they have and hang on to the last of their independence. We discover a large community of the nomads, helping each other learn the tricks to survive. Bruder's book took an in-depth look at the real nomad culture of older Americans hitting the road in RVs of all shapes and sizes looking for work and a way to get by. We don't have to guess about the reality of these characters as many people play themselves in the film making Zhao's tale an unusual blend of dramatic character study and documentary with Fern acting as the audience's doorway into this world.

The film is filled with several small scenes which make up a collage of Fern's life, her struggles, her passions, her regrets, and her drive to continue on despite what obstacles may come her way. Much like Fern's wandering, Nomadland doesn't have a particular destination in mind. Instead it tries to cram as many looks into this subculture as possible while also exploring Fern's complicated choice into choosing this life rather than accept the hospitality of her only living family, and friends, whom she cannot bear to stay with. She's not homeless, as she tells a girl she once taught when their paths cross again. She's merely houseless, as her van and the wide open vistas which surround her, and the friends she meets along the way, offer her all the home that she needs.

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