Nomadland Review – A Solid Emotional Story and Affecting Performances

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Nomadland, from Searchlight Pictures, presents a modern story of the lost souls of society who are forced out of traditional lifestyles by the 2009 economic collapse, and are forced by circumstance to find a new way of living.

The film begins with a brief introduction of the time and season. It is January 2011, a town in rural Nevada, Empire, at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, shuts down its factory. By July, the town, everyone in it, and even the zip code where, essentially, erased.

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We meet Fern, played by Frances McDormand, a lost soul in this financial collapse, rummaging through her storage facility, determining what possessions are important enough to take with her as she is forced to live out of her van.

As it is the holiday season, she picks up an odd job at an Amazon plant. More than good money, Amazon also pays for housing and for her this means lot rent for her van. She meets Linda May who explains, after Amazon ends, many of them are heading south to Arizona, where Bob Wells, the founder of the Cheap RV living movement has a small community that instructs new nomads on the rules of living on the road.

Fern, still grieving from the loss of her husband from cancer, and the double loss of lifestyle, home, future and dreams, is friendly but sets clear boundaries. Her shield is up and only those who pose no emotional threat are allowed near.

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At this community in the desert, we meet Swankie who received a doctor's diagnosis that limited her future to months and decided it was time to revisit those places in her life that held special meaning. We also meet Dave, played by David Strathairn, and as he and Fern are both single, and appear to have enough in common, he initiates a relationship, which, as she still wears her wedding ring, she rebuffs.

The lifestyle they have both chosen has a way of reuniting these modern nomads, who pick up odd jobs here and there to fund their lives and honor their commitments. Somewhere down the road in the Badlands the two meet again each working locally.

A loosely connected support system, even as he begins to encroach on her set boundaries, he ends up needing medical attention and Fern, a good soul, maintains her humanity and ensures he receives the care he needs. In turn, he finds her work. At this time his son shows up and invites him to live with them. Fern keeps the door to relationships closed so Dave leaves the address at her door.

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Throughout the film as Fern drives the great ribbon of highway throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southwest, the audiences is given these rare glimpses of stunning landscape which many will never see. The people and places along the way are real and rounding the corner to the unveiling of a dramatic coastline is breathtaking.

Eventually making her way to the only connection she had, she spends Thanksgiving with Dave and his family and again receives the invitation to stay. Unable to give up the life, or feeling too comfortable, or the fear of putting down roots only to have them pulled out from her again, she leaves and one year later she is back working the holiday season at Amazon and back to the Arizona community of Nomads.

Nomadland pulls back the veil on the modern pioneers, those who either willingly or unwillingly, decided to find a different way of living and carved out a new lifestyle. Additionally, the film is an indictment of failed policies and government's failure to recognize the cancer eating through the middle class, which in 2009 included annihilating the Manufacturing belt, outsourcing American jobs to China and the housing bubble.

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The cinematography is stunning. For many who will never see the Pacific Northwest or drive the loop at Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Tetons towering on the horizon, the film offers a unique view of America's scenic wonders.

As remarkable as the film is, is it equally disheartening, as it highlights the forgotten souls of society, who after a life of service are causally and without thought or concern left to die as they have become a blight on the very ones who created the system that destroyed them.

Poignant and real, Nomadland delivers a solid emotional story and affecting character performances opens everywhere February 19, 2021. See it.


Country: USA.

Runtime: 108minutes.

Screenplay by: Chloé Zhao, based upon the book "Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century" by Jessica Bruder.

Directed by: Chloé Zhao.

Produced by: Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, and Chloé Zhao.

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, and Swankie.

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