Nomadland movie poster
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Nomadland
Nomadland movie poster

Nomadland Movie Review

As beautiful and emotionally resonant as any film in recent memory, Nomadland features another stunning performance from Frances McDormand. It is also a legitimate candidate for best picture of the year.

After nearly nine months of sub-studio fare, in which “COVID quality” has reset our expectations for what makes a worthwhile movie, Nomadland looks and feels--because it is--a high-grade drama deserving of every accolade thrown its way. 

Written and directed by Chloé Zhao (The Rider), Nomadland offers a beautifully shot and enthralling experience that hooks you early and never lets go. The kind of subtle, nuanced drama that many filmmakers strive to make but that few successfully execute, Zhao makes it all look easy.

From its opening minutes to its last, the movie feels instinctively human, not so much an examination of but an immersion into a lifestyle that many may not understand completely but yet can still relate to. McDormand’s Fern is an everywoman, an intelligent, independent, and utterly stubborn individual who has embraced a life that hasn’t necessarily embraced her back. What separates Nomadland from other, lesser films (not that it needs more dumping on, but Hillbilly Elegy comes to mind) is that the movie doesn’t look down on Fern or her kind, who live out of cars, vans, and trailers and get by making money where and when the opportunity arises, but rather is an embodiment of her.

And that’s what is so incredible about Nomadland. Fern is a fully realized character, and the movie itself feels like an extension of her. It isn’t a character study or on observation or a “life in the day” piece; the movie lives and breathes Ferns, shifting from moment to moment based on her actions, decisions, and instincts, humming along as her personality dictates. 

Of course, enough could not be said about McDormand. Winner of two Academy Awards, she is easily deserving of a third, her performance so transcendent, so immersive, it’s impossible to separate the actress from her character. McDormand is actually perfect here and delivers the best performance of the year.

Nomadland is a sensational piece of work, a film so perfectly attuned to its subject it almost feels like a documentary. 

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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