Nomadland is at the top of most Best of 2020 lists, and while it is a sometimes uncomfortable film to watch, the characters will lodge themselves in your mind with the same blend of grit and grace that define the film’s star and director. Nomadland sets us down into the lives of a group of invisible Americans, people we have not really seen on screen before. With Frances McDormand as our spirit guide, we bravely mingle with self-proscribed “nomads” – folks who aren’t quite homeless, but live a life on the road in camper vans, traveling around to chase itinerant jobs and finding community only occasionally, and without the type of commitment that characterizes most of our lives.
The film is directed by Chloe Zhao, whose 2017 film The Rider won the top prize at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes and employs a similar technique to Nomadland. Both films use a blended cast of real people and actors who deliver deeply affecting portraits of a place and time. Born in Beijing, Zhao has a love for the vistas of the American West – although her version of a western – and the people who live in the American west – is a far, far cry from John Wayne.
The film is based on the 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder which offers the same conflicting portrait of a broken American and the hopeful perseverance of the nomads.
Common Sense says the film is fine 15+.