Nomadland is a drama written, edited, and directed by Chloé Zhao. The film is based on the 2017 non-fiction book called Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. Nomadland is about a woman who decides to leave home after her long-time job shuts down permanently and travel around the American West in a van. I felt Nomadland was slow, dry, and depressing, yet managed to stay interesting. I would guess it probably appealed to nomads at best.
In 2011, Fern (Frances McDormand) loses her job after the US Gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada falls victim to the Great Recession and shuts down. She worked there with her husband for many years until he recently died. Fern decides to sell most of her belongings to purchase a van that she would live in while traveling the country searching for work. In the meanwhile, Fern takes a seasonal job at an Amazon fulfillment center to substantiate her through the winter. While working at Amazon, Linda (Linda May) who is a friend and co-worker invites Fern to visit a desert rendezvous in Arizona, organized by Bob Wells (Bob Wells), which provides a support system and community for fellow nomads. Fern initially declines but changes her mind as the weather turns cold, and she struggles to find work in the area. At the rendezvous, Fern meets fellow nomads and learns basic survival and self-sufficiency skills for the road.
One day, a tire blows on Fern’s van, so she visits the van of a nearby nomad named Swankie (Swankie) to ask for a ride into town to buy a spare. Swankie, who wasn’t happy about being disturbed, chastises Fern for not being prepared and invites her to learn more road survival skills. The two eventually become good friends, prompting Swankie to tell Fern about her cancer diagnosis and shortened life expectancy. Her plan was to make good memories on the road rather than waste away in a hospital. Eventually, Fern and Swankie go their separate ways.
Fern later takes a job as a camp host at the Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park, where she runs into David (David Strathairn), another nomad she met and danced with back at the desert community. David is working temporarily at Badlands National Park, but when he falls ill, Fern visits him at the hospital where he has had emergency surgery. The two of them later take restaurant jobs at Wall Drug in South Dakota. One night David’s adult son visits the restaurant looking for him, informing David that his wife is pregnant and asking him to meet his grandchild. David is hesitant, but Fern encourages him to go. David suggests that she come with him, but she declines.
Nomadland continues on in this manner, with few surprises. Fern does manage to take on quite a few jobs at a time when jobs were pretty scarce. If you are unfamiliar with nomads and how they live, this movie will enlighten you. I don’t know what all the brew-ha-ha was about however, the acting was very good especially since many of the characters were actually nomads and not actors. The story was real, close-up, and personal. Nomadland received four nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 94% of 346 critic reviews were positive, with an average rating of 8.8/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads: “A poetic character study on the forgotten and downtrodden, Nomadland beautifully captures the restlessness left in the wake of the Great Recession.” Nomadland is currently streaming on Hulu — Check It Out!
[NOMADLAND Is Oscar-nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best: Picture, Actress, Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, and Adapted screenplay — Totaling 6 Oscar Nominations]