“Nomadland”: A trip through Western America

By: Collin Frazier



Frances McDormand guides this authentic journey through America

I really like movies, to say the least. And with most films that I enjoy, there is a driving plot that makes you want to watch until the end. Be it saving the world, a main character redeeming themselves, or stopping the bad guy from winning, they tend to be the driving force behind making a movie fun to watch. But every now and then, a film doesn’t need some conflict to be an excellent film. Take Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland”, which was released simultaneously in theaters and on Hulu Feb. 19. After losing her job to the Great Recession, Fern, played by the legendary Frances McDormand, decides to give the Nomad life a try and travels around Western America.

What stands out in this movie most of all is McDormand’s performance. She put everything into adopting the nomadic lifestyle that it was easy to forget that McDormand is actually a successful actress. It truly felt like I was not watching a movie with an actress, but with an actual nomadic person. Not only that, but her curiosity of the nomadic lifestyle made this film enjoyable to watch. She was simply wanting to explore the country that she never saw until she lost her job. It felt like me, the viewer, was basking in the beauty of the country with Fern, and McDormand’s performance was a big reason for this. Do not be surprised if her performance is a nomination for Best Actress during the Academy Awards.

I do not pay much attention to the technical aspects of film (sound mixing, production design, etc.), but this film made me learn to appreciate those aspects. The cinematography in this film was breathtaking, and that is probably an understatement. In a film that does not rely on action to catch the attention of the viewer, it certainly catches their eye with the camera. The cinematography successfully captures the varying scenes of America, from the calming forests of Yellowstone to the crashing waves of the ocean, to even the sandy deserts of Nevada. The crazy thing is this film knew how eye-catching these sights were, rarely having music play during these times, and allowing the viewer to absorb the beauty of the Great West.

Lastly, what I really appreciated about this movie is how authentic the experience is. Apart from McDormand, the only other well-known actor in the film was David Strathairn. The majority of the people in this film were actual nomads that travel the country. I think this was an excellent decision on Zhao’s part because it shows how actual nomads live in the West. It also puts into perspective how simple their lives are. They sacrifice some of the luxuries we take for granted because they want to enjoy the world around them. They each had unique stories that made me want to know more about them.

This film does not try to be anything over-the-top. It was a movie about a woman seeing the beauty of America. While I do appreciate some excitement – the simplistic, unfiltered experience really was unique.

Although the lack of action may not be for everyone – which I understand because there were some moments where the movie would drag on – I can easily say “Nomadland” deserves all the praise it is getting. McDormand is most likely going to get a Best Actress nomination, it is for sure going to win Best Cinematography, Zhao absolutely deserves a Best Director nomination, and I think that it will get the nomination for Best Picture. Will it win? I am not entirely sure, but it is certainly a favorite. This film will make you appreciate life, the beauty of nature, and the people you meet throughout. My final rating for “Nomadland” is a 95/100.

Featured photo courtesy of Searchlight.

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