review by Bobby Blakey
Before director Chloe Zhao stepped into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with her upcoming film The Eternals she had a track record of just a few films including Songs My Brother Taught Me and The Rider. Now her third feature Nomadland is going to drop this year starring Frances McDormand and real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells. Could this film offer up the insight to this unseen world of the nomad or will it fail to find its community?
Nomadland follows Fern who packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada. There has been a lot of buzz around this film including already racking up awards and they are well deserved. This is one of those movies that while it’s not overly exciting, but it is fully focused on real life that is more often than not more interesting than anything you can make up.
The direction this film takes in its execution is a mix of straight up scripted acting and almost a documentary style look. Whether intentional or not it’s this dynamic that makes the film not only work, but make it stand out as something special. It’s no surprise that McDormand is excellent here. She goes all in bringing both subtle and strong sensibilities to the role as she deals with her new take on life and finding her way. Her passion for this project shines through every moment of her performance to create something really special.
On the other side is the use of real life nomads that is a risky decision since often times nonfactors come off stiff. Here the overall tone to the film makes it work so much better letting them bring their real experiences to the story. I don’t know how much is scripted or otherwise, but it truly felt like these people were just telling their stories and the ground the film in a real life tone that you are reminded of more often than not. This is a work of fiction in the real world and these real life elements make it more than just a movie.
I can see how it might not connect with some since a lot of people head in to movies just take a break from the real world and this film is firmly planted in it. This is the exact reason it is so great and I hope everyone will give it a chance. It harkens back to a simpler way of living but is in present day and will baffling to most. I love this film and applaud all the chances and straight forward approach taken to bring it to life. McDormand once again proves she is a masterclass in acting and director Zhao has cemented herself as one of the up and coming greats.
In addition to the film this release includes bonus content including deleted scenes, a Q&A and a featurette taking you behind the film. Hit the road and grab your copy of Nomadland available now on digital and then on Blu-ray and DVD on April 27th from Searchlight Pictures.