Oscars Challenge: Nomadland

Let’s dive into Chloé Zhao’s feature about finding a place to belong in this world.

Nomadland follows Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman who lost everything dear to her during the Great Recession. She is widowed and was forced out of her Nevada home in 2011 when a gypsum plant in her town – and the town itself – shut down. Fern decides to leave the “comfort” of modern society, transforming her van into functional living quarters as a nomad. She meets real-life nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells along the way as she explores the American West.

I was very excited to view the film, given it’s mostly favorable critiques and award honors. However, I was underwhelmed. To start, I thought McDormand’s performance as Fern was fine but not all too impressive. Pretty dull, which was surprising given her previous performances (see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). In fact, the performances from the May, Swankie, and Wells outshined her in many respects; serving as Fern’s mentors during her travels. Perhaps that’s what Zhao set out to do.

On a positive note, the cinematography is breathtakingly gorgeous, while the storyline itself is interesting to follow. Particularly as we learn the life stories of real, modern-day nomads. This adds a genuine touch to a film that I found myself zoning out of during its just under two-hour runtime.

My Rating: 3/5

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