Nomadland is remarkable for a myriad of reasons. It is beautifully acted, specifically Francis McDormand and David Strathairn. McDormand brings a wonderful energy that feels so genuine. Her pain, loss, and joy are all palpable throughout, which makes for an unforgettable performance. Fern has so much positivity despite what she has seen and been through. She reminded me of my own mother, the optimist forever who isn’t afraid to let out a swear or two when the time is right.
The cinematography and color palette/tone are captivating. The washed hues offer a much more human look at the world, and while I may prefer a more saturated color palette, the color tone in Nomadland fits the down to earth feel. The choice of lenses and camera placement feed into this feeling, with medium and medium close ups dominating a majority of the film. The wide shots we do find in Nomadland are all beautiful and more often than not give us a look at how beautiful the badlands can be. But where the movie shines is in the tight shots where we can really connect with Fern and the people around her. It is incredibly touching, and that’s probably the best I can put it.
There is also something to be said about the creation of Nomadland. While it is based on a novel, the movie itself is is written, produced, directed, and edited by Chloé Zhao. That is an incredible feat and one worth praising. However, with that practically unlimited creative freedom I think some “oversight” (in my own eyes) was taken.
What I mean by that is there are certain issues I had with the movies I found glaring. The biggest being the pacing. The movie is a slow burn, despite being under two hours. This is due to the fact that so much of this movie is filled with what I would call aimlessness. There are beautiful scenes of zoos and oceans and desserts and whatnot, but there is barely any narrative flow. I was almost halfway through the movie when it dawned on me that nothing really had happened yet. We really just follow certain moments that very faintly connect to one another to what I considered an underwhelming ending. There was no tension, no clear end goal, or steady pacing. There was however, plenty of wandering.
And perhaps that’s the point. There isn’t supposed to be a grand journey with a clear end in sight. If life is cyclical and without finality like the movie presents, then it would make sense to “structure” the movie like this. However, I found it only made for, a somewhat boring movie.
Nomadland is humbly shot, acted, and written. It’s on of the most “human” movies I have ever seen. It can be uplifting and a sucker punch to the gut all at the same time, which not many movies can pull off. However, it can feel aimless and stale after a while, and while I enjoyed it, I have no intention of sitting through it again. Maybe I need to grow up, or perhaps the internet has ruined me and my attention span. Nevertheless, I would recommend Nomadland to anyone in need of a touching film, and I give it 6 out of 10 vans.