We first began to hear murmurs about ‘Nomadland’ at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Golden Lion. Without a doubt, this is the film of the year, not for a lack of other titles, which there are and some very good ones too, but because it’s in a league of its own, almost in a world of its own. It’s just towering above everything else. Having won the Audience Award in Toronto, Chloé Zhao made Golden Globes history with the best director award and the movie has gone on to win accolades after accolade in the US, and with the Oscars around the corner, swept the board at the Baftas.
So, what is it about this movie that makes it so special? The authenticity of a director who knows how to endow her cinema with that humane touch, as she already demonstrated in ‘The Rider’ and an exceptional actress with the capacity to jump off the deep end and who now aspires to her third Oscar, on the tails of ‘Fargo’ and ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, a born winner. Apparently, it was actually McDormand who optioned the rights to the book by American journalist Jessica Bruder on which the film is based and it was McDormand who then pitched the directing job to Zhao, who she saw as the best option to treat this sensitive material with delicacy. It is a film that talks about people who have been set adrift and immerses us in the world of those who have spent their lives working like pack mules and who, in the latter stages of their lives, when they should only be concerned about picking out a comfortable rocking chair, sitting on their porches and leafing through a book or staring off into the sunset, have instead found themselves turfed out into the street, having lost everything and with no other way out than to take to the road like, somewhat similar to settlers of old in westerns, only this time instead of a horse and wagon, they’re driving motorhomes.
McDormand gives herself, body and soul, throughout and takes us along on the journey, with Fern, the widow who has to rebuild her life, and is accompanied excellently by David Strathairn, that wonderful actor George Clooney made shine in ‘Good Night, Good Luck’, here as the ideal companion she encounters along the road. And it is precisely this road, a path of healing, where this discombobulated woman picks up seasonal jobs here and there, and meeting fellow nomads, homeless, and freedom lovers who share their experience with her and help her to release the pain she endures inside. Tales shared around the warmth of a campfire and reflected upon as the breeze caress their faces.
‘Nomadland’ is a truly spiritual journey, but well within the reach of anyone open and sensitive as it joins the dots between moments to convey the message: “If society was throwing us away, and sending us, the workhorse, out to the pasture, we workhorses had to gather together and take care of each other”. A heartwarming message from those nomads who can imagine a sailing ship in the desert. Compete with piano soundtrack, ‘Nomadland’ invites us to connect with nature and to become more benevolent as we observe how those individuals act considering the group as a whole and for whom there is no such thing as goodbye, because their watchword is “we’ll see you on the road”. This is a film that, as Morrissey’s lyrics go, will make us question; “Home, is it just a word? Or is it something you carry within you?”. We often here say that “The older you get, the more personality you acquire”, something that’s truly appreciated in this film, packed with life lessons and encouragement to cast aside the superfluous and refrain from wasting time on drivel while life passes us by. It’s stunning how we’re impacted to see that life can be condensed into a few slides. And it’s well-worth devoting a life to cinema if it allows you to talk about films of this depth, that remain with you long after because it hits a spot so deep inside us.
‘Nomadland’ sets the bar very high. It’s going to be a hard search to find another movie like this one! And I recommend a second viewing so you don’t miss a trick and can really enjoy the ride.