Running Time: 107 mins.
Where Can You See It?: In Theaters and on Hulu
Premise: Frances McDormand stars as a woman who loses her job after her hometown factory closes, and sets off across the American Midwest, living as van-dwelling nomad.
Behind-the-Scenes: Directed by Chloe Zhao, who previously helmed the critically acclaimed drama, The Rider, and whose next film is light years away from the small-scale dramas she’s known for. She’ll be directing Marvel’s Eternals, currently set for release in November. McDormand and David Strathairn are the only well-known professional actors in the cast of Nomadland. Most of the cast is made up of non-actors, lending the film additional realism. Premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2020. Widely considered the Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture.
The Good: Nomadland is a perceptive, largely plotless film that seems to revel in the intimate, day-to-day realities of its nomad characters. Zhao is so good at stripping the artifice out of every scene. Her directorial touch is light but assured, with each scene flowing from one to the next, never going on longer than it should. McDormand is expectedly excellent, and Strathairn is equally good in a supporting role. Both give effortlessly lived-in, emotionally detailed performances. The cinematography is an absolute standout. Some of the images captured here – all using what seems like natural lighting (but probably isn’t) – are simply stunning. There’s one shot where McDormand walks across a trailer park at dusk that floored me with its beauty. The film rightly focuses on its characters, instead of diluting its message with political or economic points.
The Bad: The film doesn’t really address any of the robust political or economic issues hovering around the edges. If you favor movies that have a strong story, with a recognizable beginning, middle and end, you’ll likely grow frustrated with Nomadland’s obstinate refusal to give in to the standard Hollywood screenplay structure. The nomad life can be a pretty repetitive one, and the film conveys that fact.
Should You See It?: Yes. Nomadland earns its Oscar frontrunner status. It’s not my favorite film of 2020 (hello, Palm Springs), but it’s certainly worthy of your time and attention. And, with it premiering on Hulu, it couldn’t be easier to catch up with it right now.
Star Rating: **** out of 5 stars
Better Than: News of the World, The Rider
Worse Than: First Cow, Another Round
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