Nomadland, nominated for six Oscars and already an awards season darling, chronicles the journey of a recent widow embarking on the loneliest, nomadic adventure of her lifetime. Visually riveting from the very first moment, accented with a charming sense of humor about human behavior, this movie will linger in your psyche and inspire the most dedicated couch potatoes. Silence plays an intriguing role telling the story between the lines and allowing the brilliant Frances McDormand (Fern) to showcase her award winning talent. The graceful silence that sucked the truth out of every moment was accented beautifully by an eloquent score filling in the gaps only when it was necessary.
Ultimately a story about coping with the impermanence life promises, this journey of a widow slowly, but surely, grieving the loss of everyone she’s ever loved unravels on screen and allows its audience to watch her heal in real time. We watch Fern try to cope by clinging to old items shared by her and her husband that are tucked away in a storage unit alongside old china plates gifted to her by her departed father. She also attempts to soothe her wounds hitting the road as a nomad, living in her renovated van and working small, odd jobs to make enough money for one meal at a time. Meeting new people everywhere she went forced Fern to put her depression aside and socialize with other people, providing another cathartic experience for the aching woman. An outstanding performance by McDormand lent itself to the tale of a hurt soul picking up its shattered pieces that fell to the depths of despair like broken china crumbling to the ground.
The overwhelming sense of loneliness embedded in the nomad lifestyle is palpable and relatable for many of us struggling through an isolating pandemic. It’s the same whether you’re a nomad or not, people entering and exiting your life is a constant occurrence in life, however, it seems more fleeting for those on the road, leaving Fern, and the rest of the nomads visibly lonely and always distant, physically and emotionally. It begs the question, are we more lonely than we care to admit? Are we absolutely alone, but occupying our time with distractions in the form of other people’s attention?
Though it was intriguing learning about a lifestyle so far out of my comfort zone I cannot even see it, the story dragged in a few moments, making me yearn for more substance or excitement. That being said, Frances McDormand (Fern) takes acting to the next level, guiding non-actors through every scene, directing the emotions and tone with every impeccable choice she made. What his masterful actress pulled off while making it look effortless is a true accomplishment, one I would mark as a career high for McDormand.
There’s a reason Chloe Zhau hasn’t lost an award this season (she’ll have won 15 awards in total by the Oscars) because the pacing, editing, cinematography, and the performances of everyone in the film were cohesively beautiful, complex, and human. Blending true nomads actually living from their mobile homes with an incredible actress’s performance was organic, seamless, and impressive. I became a modern Sherlock desperately looking for a clue to decipher between professional actors and people actually on their way down the road. I won’t ruin the fun for you by giving you the number of incorrect guesses I made, but I’ll tell you this, I missed a lot of them!
Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, I found myself wanting to cry through satisfied smiles while also wanting to hold my loved ones while also going through a rage rant about the pitfalls of modern society. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t feel climactic, yet, once you are nearing the end, you feel like your soul completed a marathon and your emotions were drained by a blood-thirsty vampire. It will subtly affect you in small ways days after your viewing, giving this story an interesting grenade effect and leaving you no choice, but to tell it, “see you down the road”.