• Strictly Films

Nomadland (NYFF 2020); Chloe Zhao Has Done it Once Again. Grade: B+


Strictly Films welcomes you back to more coverage of this years New York Film Festival! Our next film on the block, is the one we’ve all been waiting so patiently for: Nomadland! The return of Chloe Zhao is finally here, we may have a lot of negative things to say about 2020, but surely a new Chloe Zhao film brings us some light during this dark age!

Nomadland takes place during the recession in Empire, Nevada in 2012. Due to a reduced demand of Sheetrock, US Gypsum shuts down it’s plant in the city of Empire after 88 years in service. Which meant hard working American woman named Fern (Frances McDormand) lost everything, along with her husband as well. As Fern doesn’t have a stable retirement pension to get by, she still remains to work to this day, as she now becomes a modern day nomad. She takes a journey across the American West in her RV, traveling place to place, working odd job to odd job, and meeting new friends along the way.


The Cinematography was great, as the film captures many captivating locations across the Midwest. It honestly felt like watching one of those nature shows, as each and every new location had some kind of admiration to it. If you’re more of a small town person than a city person... You’re going to love how this film looks. I kind of liked that little Easter egg shot, of Chloe Zhao adding a small little movie theater, as the film that was showing in that theatre was Avengers... I see what ya did there. The Score was beautifully done, anytime you bring in an emotional sounding piano score, I’m just all in for it. When presented it just tears some strings in your heart. Especially this one scene, where Fern and Swankie (Swankie) were discussing about Swankie’s illness, as she reminisces the time where she felt a perfect end would be flying with swans or some kind of bird I forget. Just how the music was shown during that scene, just makes you feel some type of way, as I can relate to that feeling being perfectly fine with an ending much earlier than expected.


The cast all in all was great as a whole, Chloe Zhao really does a fantastic job with her direction, though with limited talent brings out natural quality performances out of everyone. Frances McDormand playing the role of Fern once again had a great performance, which is not a surprise at all. As the character Fern you want to appear like a feel good kind of gal, while also noticing this woman is broken in some way, as Frances McDormand captures this role perfectly. Fern is a well written character as well, a woman whom has lost everything but doesn’t want to depend on anyone but herself. As an audience you kind of beg Fern to stop living this lifestyle and take on an offer, to be in a secure place rather than this RV. But at the same time: What really is home, if the one you call home is no longer here?! So I fully understand the uncomfortably Fern has for these offers, as she rather spend the rest of her days working day by day, traveling place by place. All I know is after Nomadland, be on the look out if Frances McDormand gets a call to be on some kind of traveling network... It was certainly delightful watching her experience new things.


I do have a couple flaws for this film. There’s this one scene with Fern that didn’t make much sense, I can’t recall it at the moment but when rewatching I probably could point it out again. Also felt this film had a few opportunities to have a much fitting concluding shot, yet it goes on a bit longer than it should have. I actually do recall the time Frances McDormand had interest to work with Chloe Zhao on a project. Frances McDormand won a Spirit Award for Best Actress in Three Billboards, as Frances turned to Chloe as she said, “I’ll have my agent call yours.” As BOOM.... Nomadland was born, that’s honestly cool moment.

Chloe Zhao has become a director I watch out for. Her debut film Songs my Brothers Taught Me and her sophomore The Rider both being really good emotionally riveting films. Nomadland continues Chloe Zhao’s highly successful run as a film maker, as this another emotionally riveting film.


I feel what Nomadland differs from her past couple films, is the fact not only is this a really well written story, but it’s also an experience that keeps on moving. Her past two films only stays in one particular location setting, with this film you’re experiencing Midwest America as though it looks not as lavish as the city setting, however there is a great amount of admiration. This is honestly first time I’ve ever heard about the nomads and what they are, as I found their lifestyle fairly fascinating. Moving across the country, living in an RV, and working job to job from place to place is something I’ve never heard of, and yet it was kind of cool. These people may not have the most lavish things, but they do all they can for what they have, as they truly live a life that’s truly living to the fullest. Sometimes it’s not by choice and sometimes it is by choice, it’s what drives these people to keep on living through the grief their holding, including our lead character.


There are quite a few emotional moments, that left me very vulnerable while watching. The main character Fern especially as watching those that personally know her, feeling extremely bad for her as they offer her to stay with them in their homes. You can tell Fern has made an impact on others by the way people express their gratitude towards her, I mean if you’re open to make room in your own home for someone else, you know damn well that must’ve been a special person. The people Fern has met along the way at times leaves you kind of broken. Like mentioned earlier about Fern’s friend Swankie, Fern’s acquaintance with this cowboy whom now appears lost and homeless, Fern’s other friend whom has a family of his own, and of course the Santa Claus looking fellah of this nomad community.


The dialogue in which the Santa Claus fellah express in the end, how there is no real goodbye in life, as it’s all just one big “See ya down the road” left me entirely floored. There’s quite a few striking moments of dialogue in which as the viewer, it brings out the humanity in you, as you feel a great amount of emotions as you hear it. This is definitely a film I will be rewatching in a theater setting when it does release in December, this is honestly a special film that compliments Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace. All the elements is clicking together regarding the visuals, music, cast, story, and the experience itself.


Overall, Nomadland is a great film. I highly recommend this film, do support it when it hits the theaters, Chloe Zhao as always been a film maker in which deserves all the support in the world. Well another well done film about depression indeed for Mrs. Zhao. I wish her next film followed the likes of these three gems, but considering the fact Zhao will be receiving a heavy paycheck from Marvel so she can be able to work on more films like these... It’s fine a trade off for now. -Mitch Smietana


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