Realism, resources, and poverty are the key elements that make up Nomadland’s emotional theme. Director Chloe Zhao chose real-life nomads, and their performances are so authentic that viewers are able to see the emotions from their own life and hardship in this deep motion picture drama. This moving film is powerfully invigorating with its setting featuring life after the Great Recession in rural Nevada. Frances McDormand plays Fern, someone who strives to make ends meet no matter the cost. She delivers a legendary performance in this heartbreaking ride of doubts, financial constraints, and planning for the future in a dark time. Nomadland leaves a trail of questions.
In Nomadland, the introduction focuses on Fern, a middle-aged woman who lost everything in the Great Recession and is on a journey to start over again. She lives in a van and works at an Amazon warehouse to try to get by. Fern has adapted to living in her van and learning to be resourceful as she journeys through the American West. Fern hopes that she can find a path to regaining a life of normalcy again. The friends she makes along the way are the ones who are real nomads. Those real nomads are Gay and Linda (played by Gay DeForest and Linda May). They have adapted to believing their nomadic life of poverty is their new normal, but Fern has bigger aspirations. The question is whether she can financially overcome her challenges.
The struggles in Nomadland, especially the financial constraints that Fern encounters, are partially due to how rural Nevada lacks the resources for assistance she needs. There are times where her vehicle is glitchy and times where she realizes her health may not be the greatest. During these scenes, the cinematography is faded with cold blue skies and the mountains of Nevada. The film’s artistic and dramatic direction portrays that the journey for Fern is much harder than she realizes. It is a journey of heartfelt moments and emotional realizations and the film’s storyline and scenery left me breathless by how captivating it was.
In this leading role, Frances McDormand has the talent and attitude required to deliver a outstanding performance as a woman determined to not give up on life. She has the serious looks, the intense attitude, and the attention-grabbing voice which combine to make Nomadland believable. As she says in the film, “It’s strange that you encounter people who invest their whole life savings, go into debt, just to buy a house they can’t afford.” Her honesty and realistic tone send the message about what she may be trying to pursue despite the hardship she has endured taking a toll on her character. It is emotionally riveting! Nomadland is a film of sorrow and joy that I found to be a true artistic masterpiece. I believe that McDormand’s role is Oscar-worthy, and that Zhao has made her mark with a film that explores values, beliefs, and morals that her audience will cherish. Four stars.