Best Picture ‘Nomadland’ is a modern-day masterpiece
I am breaking the rules — again — for this week’s “Throwback Thursday” column.
The film is hardly a throwback. In fact, it won Best Picture at Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards. I stumbled across “Nomadland” over the weekend on Hulu. Ever since the days of “Fargo,” I have been a big Frances McDormand fan, so it easily caught my eye.
“Nomadland” tells the story of Fern (McDormand). The film is set in 2011. Fern, a widow, loses her job after the U.S. Gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada, closes. When the plant closes, she decides to sell all of her belongings. She purchases a van, moves into it and travels the country searching for work. When we first see Fern working, she’s packing boxes at an Amazon warehouse.
However, when that job dries up, Fern hits the road.
Linda, a friend and co-worker, invites Fern to visit a community in Arizona that caters to those living the “vanlife.” The community is organized by Bob Wells and is designed to support those who are living the lifestyle. Initially, Fern declines Linda’s offer. However, as the winter gets harsh, she decides to give the community a shot.
There, she meets more nomads and learns basic survival and self-sufficiency skills.
And while she makes friends, Fern is somewhat cold and emotionless. She’s alone, but she chooses to be. Nonetheless, you feel for her. Over the course of the film, there are some truly heartbreaking scenes. There are many nights where Fern is sleeping in her van in freezing cold temperatures. She has to go to the bathroom in a bucket inside her van (gross, right?). And when her van breaks down, she has to swallow her pride and ask a family member for a large sum of money.
The nomad lifestyle is fascinating. Fern does a great job making ends meet in spite of job loss and being down on her luck. Along the way, she meets Dave (David Strathairn), who has a romantic interest in Fern. However, she is so closed off that she won’t let him into her life. Dave also doesn’t do himself any favors when he is trying to help Fern clean her van and accidentally drops a box of priceless dishes from her father that she had been saving.
Fern has numerous chances to get off the road and settle down, but she rejects them. While there isn’t a “woe is me” attitude, she clearly doesn’t want to accept help or look like she’s taking a handout of any sort.
“Nomadland” is a fantastic film. It’s even more incredible when you realize that the nomads in the film are ACTUAL NOMADS. These are people who are truly living the lifestyle. It’s like a reality show of sorts, but even better.
In the end, “Nomadland” is a drama. But the casting of non-actors and actresses gives it legitimacy that we haven’t seen in a film in quite some time.
The film was written and directed by young filmmaker Chlo Zhao. She pushes all the right buttons from start to finish.
“Nomadland’s” Golden Globe for Best Picture was well-deserved. “Nomandland” is a modern-day masterpiece.
“Nomadland” is rated R for adult language and themes. It’s available on Hulu.
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Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.