It’s intimate films like NOMADLAND (2020) that remind me why I love movies so much. Not intimate in the way of romance or anything like that, but a quiet atmosphere, anchored by one central performance that completely sucks you in. Films with hardly any story and hardly any supporting characters really need to prove themselves in order to win you over, which is why I believe films like this to be just as challenging to make as Hollywood blockbusters. Having just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival online, I felt the need to check out NOMADLAND, given the talent in front of and behind the camera.
NOMADLAND follows Fern (Francis McDormand) and picks up after she has lost everything in her life that was ever important to her. Journeying across the outskirts of America, homeless, and living out of a van, regardless of the climate, her character discovers a new side to herself. This isn’t a film about discovering who you are, but rather if you can find a new version of yourself that can push forward after such sorrow. I thought this was something different than most dramas like this usually delve into. For that reason alone I was immersed more than I thought I would be.
More than anything, I was willing to watch this movie because Francis McDormand was carrying the movie on her shoulders alone. She’s easily one of the best performers out there today and I look forward to everything she’s in. This may sound a little premature to say, but this may be her best performance yet. The raw emotion that is present on her face throughout the entire duration felt incredibly authentic. Certain scenes toward the end of the film that has her either opening up or listening to a deep and emotional story that someone else is sharing with her is what sent this movie over the edge in terms of appreciation. There were multiple moments in the third act that had me glued to the screen, due to the absolute simplicity of it all.
Directed by Chloé Zhao, who also wrote, edited, and produced, shows how much more stellar her work has become. After 2017s THE RIDER, people really started talking about her as a filmmaker to look out for, but this is the one that I’ll remember most I think. Everyone film lover will know her name soon enough though, as she just finished directing ETERNALS (2021) for Marvel. Her sensitive touch to this particular story leapt off the screen and her communication with every other technical department, especially Joshua James Richards (the cinematographer), who’s sweeping landscapes only added to the story of this central character in Fern.
Overall, NOMADLAND will surely bore some audiences and some won’t even see the point of the movie as it seemingly goes nowhere if you take the film at surface value, but there’s so much more going on here than a character just walking around. I throughout enjoyed the journey this film took me on, as simple as it was. It was the interactions with different types of characters that came in and out of her life that had my attention the most. NOMADLAND will be in theaters this December and I absolutely think you’ll be hearing more about it when awards season kicks in, in the new year. Although it can feel its length (even though its only 108 minutes), I absolutely recommend NOMADLAND.