"Nomadland:" An Exploration of Love and Loss
There are many films from the past few years that have left me speechless. The bold, nihilistic horror of Hereditary, the heartbreaking tale of a man’s fall into Alzheimer’s displayed in The Father, but no tale as of recent has left me in such a place of reflection as Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. The film stars Frances McDormand as a widow who begins living out of her van and traveling freely around the country searching for work and finding the true beauty of nature and what it beholds. The plot of this movie is very scattershot and all over the place, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. Zhao's film perfectly captures the unpredictability of life and the adventures it can take you on while defying the orthodox style of storytelling.
A graduate of New York University's prestigious film school, 2020's Nomadland serves as Chloe Zhao's third major production and she does not disappoint.
The story begins with the main character, Fern as she gets her van and starts her journey of self discovery. She meets many different people after working at an Amazon packaging facility and meets a woman who details her about the life of living as a nomad, after that experience, she meets up with more folks on the same journey. The plot isn't overtly complex, it's quite loose and doesn’t follow the typical narrative structure that most viewers are used to. What drives Nomadland's story are the characters and their respective arcs that form throughout the runtime.
Fern meets many different people on her journey, some young hippies who all travel together, a possible love interest in a man named Dave, a cancer-diagnosed woman named Swankie, and many more who all add something new to the story. All of these characters are exemplified by their masterful performances, especially of lead, Frances McDormand, which provides a harrowing and cathartic performance of a damaged woman trying to find happiness in life after the loss of her husband.
Another notable feature of Nomadland is the cinematography by Joshua James Richards. Throughout the runtime there are these beautiful display of midwestern landscapes that turn the film into a downright visual marvel. The score by Ludovico Einaudi balances out the quiet moments with beautiful instances of bliss, sometimes it can be a little repetitive but other times it's cathartic and amazing. The screenwriting feels so real and personal, with aid of the actor’s performances the characters begin to feel truly authentic.
I would be doing a disservice to this brilliant film if I didn’t mention the fantastic direction by Chloe Zhao. She handles the film with as much care as if it were her own child. You can tell it’s a very raw and personal film for her through her impressive writing and storytelling. Needless to say, I don't think it's a stretch to say I'll be eagerly waiting to see whatever Zhao accomplishes next.
Overall, Nomadland is what I would call an absolute masterpiece. From its unorthodox narrative structure to its fully realized performances, the mind-boggling cinematography and the harrowing story, this film not only exemplifies the vision of a masterful director but is hands down is the best film I have seen in a while. I highly recommend it to the mass majority of movie goers. There's a reason this film has had such a large presence this awards season, make sure you don't miss out.