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Sunday, April 11, 2021

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Film Fridays: "Nomadland"

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian. This article contains spoilers.

We may have our next Best Picture winner on our hands. With the Academy Awards approaching in April, many critics predict “Nomadland” will take the big prize, as it has been dominating other awards shows. 

The buzzy film is the third-highest rated of 2020 on Metacritic, scoring four Golden Globe nominations. It first appeared on my radar, though, when it took home the acclaimed People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

I am proud to say that “Nomadland” did not disappoint. Do I think it deserves to win best picture? No, but most of my favorite movies of 2020 (“Another Round,” “Sound of Metal,” “Palm Springs”) aren’t likely to even score nominations. 

Award shows aside, “Nomadland” is great. The film follows Fern, played by Frances McDormand, who loses her job during the 2008 Great Recession and decides to sell her belongings, purchase a van and travel through the American West.

“Nomadland” acts as a character study of a woman who searches for peace while coping with tragedy after losing her husband. The film is heavy and requires full attention, so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is not in the right mindset.

As someone with minimal knowledge about the life of a modern-day nomad, being able to get an in-depth look at the way they operate was fascinating to me. The film felt like a documentary at times, and that’s because the film is filled with real-life nomads with no acting experience.

This was a standout and added an authenticity factor to the film. And, it was fascinating to hear their personal stories. 

The non-actors delivered powerful performances, and I loved following the relationships Fern has with them. These were my favorite moments of the film, and I am happy director Chloe Zhao opted not to cast actors for the roles. 

I noticed that in select theaters, the film is playing in IMAX. Although I watched the film on Hulu, it would have been a true spectacle to see the film on such a big screen.

“Nomadland” has the best cinematography of the year. The landscapes are beautiful, and lots of moments consist of wide shots of McDormand wandering around and taking in the scenery.

McDormand was phenomenal as always. I thought she was even better in this than “Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri,” for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award in 2018. This year, I am rooting for her or Carey Mulligan from “Promising Young Woman” to win the award.

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McDormand provides such raw emotion to her character, to the point where I couldn’t imagine another actress playing Fern. Every line of dialogue, every reaction and every decision made sense for her character, and I would honestly love to see a television show mini-series about the nomadic adventures of Fern. 

Chloé Zhao gave some of the best directing of the year as well, and it makes sense that Disney signed her to direct the Marvel blockbuster, “Eternals.” She has a bright future ahead.

The flaws I saw in the film have to do with the pacing and occasional meandering. There were a few moments where I found myself checking my watch and getting antsy for the film to pick up.

The third act loses steam but picks back up during the conclusion. I don’t see myself rewatching “Nomadland” anytime soon, but that has to do with the heavy source material and most definitely not with the quality of the film. 

With that being said, I would recommend “Nomadland” to anyone, but with a disclaimer that it requires a specific mood to be in. The film has so many strengths that ultimately outweigh the slight gripes I had with it.

Fern runs into a character who tells her that there is no such thing as goodbyes in the nomad community. This is because nomads always promise to see each other again “down the road.”

This stuck with me the most.

“Nomadland” is streaming on Hulu.

Contact columnist Miles Goldman at miles.goldman@richmond.edu.

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