Nomadland ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director Chloé Zhao. Cast: Frances McDormandGay DeForestPatricia Grier, David Strathairn

Director, writer, editor Chloé Zhao had already left us hugely impressed with her heartfelt “western” the Rider in 2018 where she found poetry in the tale of a rodeo rider. Now she does it again and once again she finds beauty in the story of a seemingly average modern-day nomad, looking for a “house” or rather “a way to live her life” day by day, after the death of her soulmate husband. On her “travels” she drifts in and out of the lives of other drifters she comes across with, many old people living at the margins of society (though no politic is ever mention in the film), nearing the end of their lives, often lonely, but always able to find happiness in the smallest things in life.

It’s a hard film to describe without making it sound very pompous and a bit boring, but Nomadland anything but (though I recognise this may not be a film for everyone).

Frances McDormand’s powerful and yet, understated and quiet performance is astonishing and quite possibly the best of her career (which by itself says it all!). She literally inhabits the character of Fern, this grieving and yet strong woman who lives in a van with her few possessions moving around almost aimlessly, like a stranger in her own land, looking for a job to be able to carry on living. Her face, a simple glance, a half smile, a fleeting look speak volumes, dispensing the script of pointless lines and long monologues.

The visuals and the soundtrack also contribute to build a perfect atmosphere around her. The moving score by Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi constantly and reflecting her internal states of being: quiet and thoughtful at times (hence some subtle piano notes), and wrapped in emotional turmoil (a growing orchestrated soundscape).

There’s a great intimacy in the way it’s all filmed and edited too: fragments of quiet vignettes speak of the her daily routine: on one hand the film has the great immediacy of a documentary but it also has the beauty of the great vistas and landscapes like in modern epic western. If this doesn’t get nominated at the Oscars, then I really know nothing about movies anymore.

You’ll be able to see it in February when it finally comes out (unless you saw this at the Venice or London Film Festival).

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