A bittersweet taste of Americana amongst growing economic crisis, financial insecurity and resilient people. Nomadland, directed and written by the burgeoning Chloé Zhao, who adapted the film from a book by Jessica Bruder, is art imitating life in a blaze of kitchen sinkdom.
The film centres around Fern, played by Frances McDormand in perhaps her best role yet, as she travels the plains of the US in search of work, following the closure of The Gypsum plant where her and her now deceased husband worked for years.
We follow Fern through a variety of seemingly low-paid jobs, including a seasonal stint at an Amazon warehouse, all while living in a converted RV. A truly damning take on the exploitative, uncaring nature of late-stage capitalism, in which a host of financial crisis and greedy CEOs have thrust thousands of Americans into what was once called “Hoboing”, minus the freight trains.
Despite the obvious critiques of the absent safety net, the brutal living conditions and the zero employment rights, Zhao paints a picture of resilience, comradery, adaptability and hope. A host of wonderful characters are shown to have formed strong bonds, stretching the continent as they travel in and out of each other’s lives. McDormand is joined by several Non-Actors, whose interactions with the professionals are seamless, making the work almost impossible to differentiate from documentary.
As the film comes to an end, it dawns on you that despite being absolutely glued to the screen, there’s not much of a linear plot, its effectively some very nice camera work, following a middle aged women throughout a year or so of her life, yet the lack of dramatics leave huge room for some of the best acting, scripting and improvisation.
The videography captures a world that’s part wasteland and part beauty, as wide shots of North American Landscapes fill the screen, leaving the viewer weatherbeaten yet awestruck. A visual reminder of the two tales of the picture, the harsh realities of economics and the beauty of working people.
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