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  • Gareth Crook

Nomadland (2020) - 8/10

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

There’s quite a fuss being made of this on release, I can see why, it does stand out. It’s the sort of dramatic entertainment focused on social struggle that Frances McDormand does so well. She plays Fern. Life is hard for her, living in America’s interior with industry failing and her husband passed away. It’s slow, purposeful, real. Not a doc but most of the cast are essentially playing themselves, giving this a disarming reality, living in a van, trying to find work... where there’s little work. Despite the bleakness, this isn’t looking for sympathy. It’s a world of open skies and people looking out for each other. People like Fern that are faced with a sense of loss, a life that’s no longer there for them. For others though it’s more of a choice, recognising that the American Dream is failing and it’s up to them to forge ahead, shunning materialism and embracing a tranquil peace. It is a film, there is an arc, but it’s also a window. A world that most of us have no clue about. Fern doesn’t either, she’s learning fast though and we learn with her. How to look after herself, after her van. It’s tough. Very raw, very honest and perhaps surprisingly very exciting. The stories that are told, the people Fern meets, it’s really humbling and there’s an inherent sadness and melancholia. I really can’t emphasise enough the positivity in the community though and that’s what sticks with you. It feels like these a real friendships being forged, that McDormand and the cast have made real connections. There’s a lot of alone time. The camera solely on McDormand, but she’s perfect, subtlety commanding every shot. The only other ‘actor’ aside McDormand, certainly that’s easy to spot at least is David Strathairn who plays Dave, not as much a love interest as a positive anchor. One that’s sorely needed when things take a tough turn. There is a moral tone, a defiance against corporate America, but it’s truly at its core a story filled with wonder and a sense of freedom. Many won’t enjoy this, will find it too bleak, too slow. Each to their own, but in my opinion it deserves the praise it’s getting.



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