Frances McDormand is the Midas Touch actor. No matter what, no matter what, she delivers and her movie is elevated. End of story. OK that is my review.
No seriously. She is an actor for the ages. She takes anything and any subject to sheer elevation.
She is an Oscar winner for a reason; always vulnerable, authentic and pure.
Oscar-nominated Nomadland from director Chloé Zhao, with McDormand as one of the producers, makes us look at life in another way - something so raw we are not used to seeing. People who have left mainstream society for a subculture to make their own choices. This means no commitments to any place or anyone.
The entire time you are watching this movie you are saying to yourself “hmmm, how would I do that” and “isn’t that interesting” or “this is making me feel sad but I don’t know why.”
The film has us look at how others live while forcing us to care deeply putting ourselves in their shoes. It is a journey into real life from a lens we have never seen like this. Those who leave the real world and take an endless and forever road trip. This is about people who find freedom by having no roots.
McDormand plays Fern who just lost her husband and is now doing the ’nomad’ life. For Fern, she is houseless but not homeless. She has lost her husband and her job so she buys a van and decides to head out on the road but this trip becomes a way of life as she meats many along the way who call home the wild wilderness.
Fern has a sister (Melissa Smith) who offers to give her a place to stay but that commitment is too much. A man likes her (David Strthairn) but she can’t be corralled. Her family and friends are those others on the move.
The film is based on the book a Jessica Bruder. Director Chloé Zhao has been winning awards this entire season with what I can only describe as masterful cinematic splendor.
The movie makes you feel down a bit down, but you’re not quite sure why. It’s not like you feel sorry for the star or the film or the others as they are choosing this way of life. Yet you feel melancholy. You never really know why because they are not unhappy with their lifestyle choice but you feel quiet throughout the entire film. But you shouldn’t, it’s ride they have chosen and you are on it with them. They are living out a dream, a desire. A lonely solitude way of life but it is their choice.
McDormand is like Meryl Streep. Meaning; they morph. And you have no idea before you start watching where you will be going with them. It doesn’t matter the movie, doesn’t matter the subject matter, doesn’t matter if you care about the topic - you just sign up to see them. And McDormand, time after time, is always simple yet deep, calm yet strong and one of the best performances you’ll ever see that year.
The movie really goes no where, just as this journey across America’s west. You follow along travellers but never really end up anywhere. You travel through America, you sleep, you get up, you eat, you sleep, you get up, you never miss anything you left behind in a previous scene, just as those in the movie do not in their lives. They move in, choose a road less travelled, move on, move out and one consistent always remains - they have no ties to anything or anyone. Living out of a van may not seem like a dream life but for some in the USA, this is “the dream.”
Nomadland is a character study, of everything - people, places, reasons, wishes, choices, decisions, strength. It has a spiritual feeling to it. But try and explain the storyline to someone and it will sound like the most boring movie ever made. On the contrary, this journey is one not to miss. But truly, it can’t be described. One of the reasons is the pacing and cinematography.
Joshua James Richards lens across America’s west is outstanding. The visuals are a full character in the film with vast scenes of America’s lands that feel as spacious and unconstricting as the feelings nomads have with life. The film feels haunting yet simplistic and peaceful and that creates momentum for interest throughout. This type of creation takes work by a director, to set a pace and an emotional connection without it ever looking like you tried. Such simplicity takes talent to make it look effortless.
And this simple yet profound film does just that.
Now that — takes talent.
Worthy of all the accolades it has been getting.