Nomadland, by Cameron J. Czaja

Every year on my birthday I have a personal tradition of doing one of favorite things that I enjoy in life, which is watching a new movie. Although I haven’t been faithful with that ritual over the years due to timing of work or other obligations, I was determined to see a new movie this year as I had the day off from work and that movie was Nomadland.

Nomadland is a film that I have been following for quite some time now as it first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2020, and received glowing reviews from critics. It was supposed to get a theatrical release back in December of 2020, but due to the ongoing pandemic it was delayed to February of this year. While I was bothered by this delay, I was glad that I finally got the chance to experience this film through my own perspective. Was this worth the hype? As usual, let’s find out.

The plot in Nomadland is extremely simple. It follows a woman Fern (Frances McDormand) who loses her job in 2011 after the US Gypsum Plant closes in Empire, Nevada. This puts Fern between a rock and a hard place because living in Empire, particularly after losing her husband who passed away not long before the events of the film. Desperate for work, Fern then decides to sell most of her belongings and purchase a van where she’ll live in and travel the country looking for jobs. From there Fern encounters other people who follow the same lifestyle of being a nomad we learn of this lifestyle through her eyes.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot of Nomadland very simple. In fact, some might find it too simple to where they may find it to be boring. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed this film to where I think it was one of the best films to come out in 2020.

When it comes to the filmmaking for Nomadland, the best phrase to describe would be “less is more.” It does subtle techniques and tells a unique story that fascinated me, and that I wasn’t expecting. I unfortunately didn’t see this in a movie theater due to timing and I resorted to watching this on my laptop, but I was hooked from beginning to end. I say this because I have a bad habit when I watch certain films where I won’t finish it without pausing it and coming back to it later, similar to reading a book. With this one, however, the simple filmmaking and story kept my attention. This is because director Chloé Zhao focused on the details of the nomadic lifestyle. In a way, it is somewhat of a pseudo-documentary. This, along with well-made filmmaking is what kept me thinking about the film even when it was over.

When it comes to the filmmaking for Nomadland, the best phrase to describe would be “less is more”. It does subtle techniques and tells a unique story that fascinated me that I wasn’t expecting. I unfortunately didn’t see this in a movie theatre due to timing and I resorted to watching this on my laptop but the entire time I was hooked from beginning to end with little to no breaks. I say this because I have a very bad habit when I watch certain films where I won’t finish it without pausing it and coming back to it later; very similar to reading a book. With Nomadland, however, the simple filmmaking and story kept my attention from begging to end. This is because director Chloé Zhao focused on the details of the nomadic lifestyle that earned my curiosity on a culture I knew little about. In a way Nomadland is somewhat of a pseudo-documentary as it focuses on a subject that most people aren’t familiar with including myself.

Now, earlier in my review I mentioned how Nomadland might seem boring to general audiences. I say this because the film is pretty simple that gets at themes that most people experience in their everyday life. I guess you could say this is somewhat of a warning for those hoping to experience an epic film rather than a dry one that centers on ordinary people. In retrospect I feel like this film isn’t for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend it to those who prefer mainstream films because they would see it as a pretentious movie with nothing going on throughout it, and I wouldn’t blame them. For me this film is a work of art and if you have read any previous reviews of mine then you know that I’m a sucker for arthouse films. Much like praying, they can be quiet but a lot happens if you pay attention.

All in all, Nomadland is a film that I highly recommend with the caveat of reasons that I mentioned. Right now, this is available on Hulu and if my words have persuaded you to check this film out then that’s the streaming service to go on. I should mention that there is a scene with full nudity, however nonsexual. But if you don’t want to see any nudity of any type, then skip the 45:00 minute mark of the film. Also, coincidentally by the time this review has been posted this just became a Best Picture Winner at the 93rd Oscars, so hopefully that’ll peak your curiosity. It definitely had me wanting to watch the film again after that win.

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