Nomadland (2020): A Visually Beautiful Rehashing of a Very Familiar Narrative

Upon the first viewing, it is easy to see why Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland has garnered accolades and award season buzz. The film checks nearly every box. And, although I enjoyed my viewing of the film, it did not have the profound effect on me that I have come to expect from these kinds of movies. But, that’s not to say that it isn’t a good film.

I definitely have respect for both Chloe Zhao and Frances McDormand, who is the films star and one of the producers. They set out to make an ambitious, authentic film, and they succeeded. The film, benefiting from “casting” real life nomads, feels very raw and real. The camera work is absolutely stunning, with gorgeous wide shots of the American West and close up shots of faces and things that make up that landscape. Nomadland is an absolutely beautiful film to watch. The visuals paired with the music of Ludovico Einaudi makes for a serene film.

The drama of the Western sky is captured perfectly, over and over again. Frances McDormand in the film NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

The story of the film itself, although based off the non-fiction book of the same name, is nothing that we haven’t seen before and it doesn’t really do much for telling the story any differently. Nomadland is simply about a journey of healing and discovery. It’s about the forgotten. And, it’s about the hardworking. It’s a story that’s been told a million times over with the same message: live your life because you never know when it’ll be over.

I am disappointed that this film fell a bit flat for me. Frances McDormand’s performance was wonderful. It felt very real. She did a good job immersing herself in that environment. And, as I stated above, the film was beautiful to actually watch, especially when paired with the music. But, overall, Nomadland didn’t feel like anything new. If anything, it felt like the overall message of the film was beating us over the head.

Nomadland is currently available to stream on Hulu.

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