It’s the Bank Holiday weekend over here in the UK, and with a slightly longer weekend ahead, it’s time for the streaming services to bring out the big guns. Netflix has served up Things Heard & Seen, Amazon has delivered Without Remorse, and from today in the UK, Disney+ is offering up Nomadland.
And when it comes to big guns, they don’t come much bigger than Nomadland, because this movie picked up Best Picture at this week’s Academy Awards. This is the top prize at the most prestigious film event of the year, meaning that before you even read this review, you know it’s going to end with me giving this movie the ‘thumbs-up’
In fact, writing a review of Nomadland, at this stage, seems a bit redundant. Once the film is given the Best Picture Award, that speaks volumes, but when it also picks up Best Actress for lead star Frances McDormand, and Best Director for Chloé Zhao that pretty much says it all.
But hey, I’ve got the time, you’ve got the interest, so let’s talk about this movie anyway!
Based on Jessica Bruder’s book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Nomadland tells the story of Fern – a woman in her 60s who travels across the US in a small van. Fern takes seasonal jobs to earn money, including an annual stint with Amazon, but largely drifts around the open highway surviving the cold and keeping herself-to-herself.
Prior to her nomadic life, Fern lived with her husband in the town of Empire, Nevada. They both worked at the local manufacturing plant, which was the sole source of income for the townsfolk, but when the plant closed, the town closed too.
Shortly after the closure of the town, Fern’s husband passes away from cancer. With everything turned upside down, she packs everything she has into a van and hits the road.
The movie follows Fern as she moves from job-to-job, encountering fellow nomads along the way. It touches on the highs and lows of a nomadic existence, while highlighting the many reasons why people find themselves encountering this different way of life.
OK, so let’s get this out of the way first. Nomadland is an excellent movie, and it deserved to win all of the awards it received. I know this is easy to say after the event, but had this movie dropped on Disney+ a few weeks ago, I would have been saying the same thing.
If you are in two minds about giving Nomadland a couple hours of your time, then ignore any doubts and get it on your telly-box over the next few days. It really is good.
The reason Nomadland is so good is because it is beautifully shot, it is superbly acted, and most important of all, it tells a story which is both incredibly interesting and also incredibly sad. The whole film has this real sense of melancholy throughout, which speaks to both the positives and negatives of Fern’s story – and not just Fern’s story, but many peoples’ story.
This movie arrives while we are still in the midst of a global health crisis. A crisis which has left many people out of work and on the streets.
There are people all over the world, who have suddenly found themselves living a life they never envisioned. Through no fault of their own the rug was pulled out from under them and they now have to work with the hand that fate dealt them.
This is the reality of 2020/2021 and this is the reality reflected in Nomadland. Different circumstances, but a similar situation.
It is a situation whereby people are fighting a daily battle for survival, and anything can bring that battle to an end. It could be bad health, it could be a drop in income, or it could be something as simple as a flat tire or engine trouble.
Nomadland is the movie which speaks for the times we are living in. It also speaks for the lost voices – the people who have simply slipped away from our lives, because we didn’t quite notice their struggles or we didn’t quite realise that an ‘ordinary’ life is not for them.
It is a film which shows the beauty of the American landscape, and the kindness and friendliness of strangers. It presents the harsh realities of living on the road through a bitter winter, and also the sheer pleasure of waking up to a sunrise in the mountains.
Nomadland is inspiring and it is sad. It is a movie about real people, shot in a way that feels almost like a documentary, with actors who come across just like ordinary folk – and some of those actors are, as the film cast a number of real-life nomads to tell this story.
The Academy Awards often gets criticised for being out of touch when it comes to handing out awards. This year, everyone who voted for this movie understood exactly why it deserved to win.
Nomadland most certainly gets a ‘thumbs-up’ from me and you should watch it.