Review: Nomadland

Kate Hill, Staff Reporter

“Nomadland,” winner of six Oscars, is an American film based on the 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century” by Jessica Bruder. Especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, “Nomadland” not only acknowledges the loss of businesses and loved ones, but it relates to the mourning process many Americans are currently going through.

This R-rated film was directed by Chloé Zhao, who won Best Director, and the Oscar winner for Best Actress in a Leading Role went to Francis McDormand for her portrayal of Fern in this film. 

Fern is a woman in her sixties who loses her job in 2011 after the U.S. Gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada, where she has worked for years and where her husband recently died, closes. As a result, she decides to leave her hometown and buy a van so that she can travel around the American West.

This film focuses on Fern’s grieving process, with the loss of her husband and her job, as she commences on her journey. As she travels throughout the West, she begins to meet fellow nomads like Dave, who is a key role in this movie as he helps guide Fern through her grieving process and eventually forces her to face an ultimatum later in the movie.  

One aspect that is truly of great interest in this film is that many of those who were a part of the film were actually nomads. A few of the real-life nomads include Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells.

Incorporating real-life nomads in this film helps viewers to understand what life looks like through the eyes of a nomad. Some of the notable differences between a settled and nomadic lifestyle are that nomads have to trade their personal belongings so that they are able to have enough money. 

“Nomadland” also embarks on the differences between a nomadic lifestyle and a settled lifestyle in America. The increase in people changing to a nomadic lifestyle in this country is not just from the loss of a loved one, but from the economic recessions that we have faced.

Cinematographer Joshua James Richards enhances this nomadic perspective by shooting the emptiness of now gone Empire, Nevada, to the liveliness at campfire gatherings in the Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park, located in South Dakota.

Though the dialogue is somewhat confusing in the beginning, later on, while the story begins to unfold, the viewer learns more about what Fern’s perspective is now as a nomad and how her interaction with those in a settled lifestyle is drastically different because of her new way of life. She comes to give more of a cold shoulder to those in a settled lifestyle because they become reminders of all that she has lost.  

I would rate “Nomadland” a 4.8 out of 5 stars for its impeccable message around the grieving process and taking risks. I recommend it to those who like a road-trip type of movie that examines the good and bad of America.