“Nomadland” is an arresting, visually beautiful film


Searchlight Pictures

“Nomadland” won Best Picture at the 78th Annual Golden Globes. Directed by Chloé Zhao, the film follows a woman journeying through the American West.

Film awards season is approaching with shows such as the Golden Globes, Critic’s Choice and Independent Spirit Awards waiting in the wings. So, for the sake of this annual occasion, I feel like I should take advantage of this opportunity by reviewing not just a contender, but a film that has been sweeping the Best Picture category on every award show across the country. So, let’s get started, shall we?

To be frankly honest, I have never seen a single film from Chloé Zhao’s filmography up until this point, so watching this film was a huge first impressions experience for me, considering how heavily acclaimed she, her work and a film like this truly is. After giving the film a glance, I can comfortably say that while the independent genre isn’t my cup of tea, “Nomadland” is a moving, visually beautiful feature.

“Nomadland” is an independent Neo-Western drama that is based on Jessica Bruder’s 2017 novel, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.” The adaptation follows Francis McDormand as a widowed nomad named Fern who lost both her job at US Gypsum and her husband during the Empire, Nevada’s recession in 2011. Throughout the film, we follow her odyssey throughout the American West as she meets other fellow nomads, works for local and big businesses, and tries to provide for herself while living life as a vagabond.

The direction from Zhao is absolutely solid. The film offers a unique perspective of a lifestyle that not many people are familiar with. She has an immaculate eye for authenticity, especially in scenes involving Fern traveling to an Arizona rendezvous led by real-life van dweller, Bob Wells, who makes a cameo in the film.

Every dialogue exchange between the characters feels so realistic and the direction captures the environment and vagrants so well that it feels near life-like, as if you were there with them. It’s equally more captivating when you realize that the majority of the film stars actual nomads as themselves making every exchange that Fern would have with them feel genuine and earnest.

Currently nominated for Best Actress for this film, Francis McDormand conjures a very warm, human and soulful performance as a woman that is still trying to get over the emotional loss of her husband while trying to support herself and gaining help from fellow nomads she encounters along the way. Every bit of line delivery she conveys is believable and endearing, despite her character not experiencing any kind of development and remains the same throughout the course of the film.

On the technical side, the cinematography by Joshua James Richards is absolutely wonderful. His ability of using natural lighting is stunning and breathtaking and works to the film’s advantage, and the shots take their time and never try to overindulge itself.

Now, before anyone decides to go and watch this movie, I must itemize the fact that this movie isn’t going to be for everybody. This film is quite a slow-burn with its script structure and pacing, the film is light on its story while focusing much on the slice of life concept rather than what the film can do with it. With that being said, “Nomadland” is a well-made, astonishingly arresting film that deserves its nomenclature and any accolade that it earned.