Nomadland is a deep dive into a single character without being extremely vocal about that particular character. As Fern leaves from one place to another, we tend to get to know her slightly more. Director Chloe Zhao has this subtle, empathetic approach in her character detailing, which keeps us in that melancholic phase without losing the curiosity to know this character up-close. With breathtaking visuals of the various landscapes that blend in with the masterful storytelling of the movie, Nomadland is such a soothing movie-watching experience.
Fern, a former resident of Empire, Nevada, who is now living in her Van, doing multiple part-time jobs, is our central protagonist. She doesn’t have a house, and she has converted her Van into an RV-like setup. What we see in Nomadland is her journey and how she met new people who added depth and dimension to her life.
Until Fern talks about her relationship with her husband and why she never wanted to move away from Empire, this character feels like a puzzle. Because when you look at it, it feels like she is running away from everything that seems to be on the secure side from the perspective of a third person. But Chloe builds that character in such a way that we are left interested in her life. We see her enjoying her time in the company of others. She prefers to stay away from sympathy. The people she meets in this journey look at her sympathetically and empathetically, and Fern chooses to accept only those who showed empathy.
The visual storytelling of Nomadland is simply brilliant. Chloe Zhao and her cinematographer Joshua James Richards have done an exceptional job in creating imageries that represented the torment of its central character so efficiently. Be it her sadness, her loneliness, her lighter moments of joy, and her teary happy moments, the visuals made it look all the more compelling. In addition, the script cleverly diverts the story from one character to another. It might well be the story of Fern, but we also get to hear the stories of multiple lonely souls. And somehow, it is the way Fern listens to these people that makes her a loveable and deeply disturbing character.
Fern is a character who never shows her pain in front of others. The only time you hear her talk loudly is when Dave breaks her precious plate set. Fern’s internalized trauma and dilemma was performed brilliantly by Frances McDormand, and credits should be given to those close-up shots of Joshua for capturing her best moments. Linda May, Swankie, Dave, Bob, etc., were extremely memorable characters by the end of the movie.
At one point in Nomadland, we hear Fern disagreeing with her brother-in-law over the concept of real estate business. Nomadland isn’t simply about the lonely journey of a widow. It brushes upon materialistic human desires, the reasons behind the unexplainable actions people do with their lives, and the need for compassion. Some might find this observation a bit odd, but in my opinion, Nomadland felt more like a practical, feel-good drama.
Some might find this observation a bit odd, but in my opinion, Nomadland felt more like a practical, feel-good drama.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended