Director: Chloé Zhao
Screenwriter: Chloé Zhao
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Stratham, Linda May, Bob Wells, and Charlene Swankie
Nomadland takes the audience an honest and haunting view of the daily lives of modern day nomads. A nomad is someone who doesn’t have a set address and moves from place to place often, usually living in their mode of transportation. After Fern, played by Frances McDormand, lost her husband to cancer and then her job, town and home when her zip code had been discontinued, searching for a feeling of belonging and life again, she packs up her van. This film showcases the real look at living as a nomad in today’s America and the real people within the community.
The most unique aspect of this film was director, Chloé Zhao’s choice to use real people and real nomads as the cast. A quick glance at the film’s IMDb page and you’ll notice that only the main and supporting characters are real actors. Frances McDormand worked alongside people who have truly lived their lives in this particular way. Throughout the film, we are introduced to different lively people who share they’re real stories from loving on the road and what got them there. The main common denominator in all these stories is a person looking for peace when it was taken away from them.
The film’s antagonist, Fern is an easily likable and laid back women. She’s a different type of main character as she’s just an ordinary women who treats people decently. The demeanor she carries throughout the film is one of someone who’s embracing all the good and bad that comes with her lifestyle and truly cherishes the beauty within the people around her and the laborious jobs they work. The audience watches her maintain relationships with other nomads even as they’ve traveled in different directions. With all the people she meets and the bond they share, the film also gives a look at the very lonely part of being a nomad. We watch Fern celebrate her birthday, as she eats soup wearing a paper birthday crown alone in her van. In a similar scene, we watch her celebrate the new year while lighting a sparkler and walking through the lot of other parked nomads chanting “happy new year!” on her own. Although many of these people made the decision to live this way, there’s still such a sad feeling that comes with knowing that the only way they felt they could live a better life was through living alone on the road.
In a year that majority of the country felt loneliness and grief, this film mirrors those emotions and figuring out how to live life in a different way. Nomadland is very special. It highlights the charm of living as a nomad while also showcasing the beauty of humanity and simplicity. In a touching scene, while Fern is talking to Bob Wells, a real nomad, they’re both sharing what brought them to becoming a nomad. They share their tragic stories of loss and how they lost their will to continue living life normally after. Bob tells Fern that he believes being with nature and finding a community will be good for her. He explains how nomads never lose each other, how there’s never a goodbye between them. “There’s no final goodbye…you’ll just say “I’ll see down the road” and I do, I see them again”. At the end of the film, the audience is left with a deeper understanding of a forgotten community in America. The audience begins to understand why Fern chose to find peace and purpose again in an almost pure way of living. The film’s final frame states, “dedicated to those who had to depart”.
Nomadland is brilliant and is the front runner to win Best Picture at tonight’s Academy Award ceremony. It can be found on Hulu.
Best Actress – Frances McDormand
Best Director – Chloé Zhao
Best Adapted Screenplay – Chloé Zhao
Best Cinematography – Joshua James Richards
Best Film Editing – Chloé Zhao