Nomadland

Nomadland ★★★★½

"Going places we have never been,
Going places we may never go again."

There's magic in the way Chloé Zhao blends fact and fiction. While Nomadland is a richly cinematic experience, much of the first hour feels that it could be a documentary. In a sense, that's exactly what it is. The film documents these beautiful stretches of land and the nomads who travel through it, leaning in close to them as they tell their stories. I don't know how many of these stories were entirely true or formed as collaborations between Zhao and the nomads, but that isn't a question that came to mind while I was watching them speak. Whether or not these characters are exactly "real," everything they say is true. It's a real testament to the idea that acting is reacting to see Frances McDormand's character, Fern, spend so much time listening to others tell their tales. It's no easy feat for an actor or completely blend in to a different world, and McDormand does that beautifully.

What I find most compelling about Fern is that her lifestyle is one shaped by loss, but it's still very much her choice to live it this way. It's getting harder and harder for Americans to retire comfortably these days, and Fern choses to abandon the system that's failed her rather than desperately cling to the crumbs it throws at her. She's lost so much, and so quickly together it all went. She still has a loving family who would happily give her a place to stay, but in her eyes, that just opens her up to more loss. At this point in her life, she needs to be in control. She has very little to her name, but she holds it all so close to her heart. She cannot, will not lose anything else. Nomadland is less about finding a place to belong as much as it is about feeling free.

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