Nomadland Review — Stunningly Subtle and Sublime

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In her Nomadland review, Lisa Johnson Mandell explains how Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao show the aching beauty in life stripped down to the bone.

Nomadland is one of those “There but for the grace of god go I” films that will leave you pondering for days. Both elegant and gritty, it easily made its way to the top of my 5 Best Films of the Year list. Granted, this is not the greatest year for film by any stretch of the imagination, but Nomadland is so remarkably good it would be a list topper any time.

Based on the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, it stars the incomparable Frances McDormand in a tale that begins in Empire Nevada, just after the gypsum mine closes down.

McDormand plays Fern, a loner by nature who now has limited options, and decides to leave most of her earthly possessions behind and set out to live in her van. She joins forces with a group of nomads who also live off the grid in their vehicles as they travel together from camp to camp.

Many of the people who actually live this nomad life in reality, (Swanky, Linda May, Bob Wells and more) were cast to play fictionalized versions of themselves, and their endearing authenticity is riveting, merging perfectly with McDormand’s strong yet subtle performance.

Pay close attention the the choices Fern makes as she rids herself of ties. It becomes apparent that many of these people live this way because they choose to, not because they have to. Many do have other options. There is beauty in their independence and lack of materialism— it’s a glimpse into another way of life so foreign to most people that they react with pity rather than respect. If you consider it with the latter, the film will take on another dimension and unique beauty.

This is largely because of the choices made by producer/writer/director Chloé Zhao, who, along with McDormand, is sure to earn an Oscar nomination for her work. Zhao’s crystal clear subtlety, in an era when ham-fisted action and violence seem to prevail, is a welcome gift.

If this Nomadland review makes you want to foray out to a theater, find a showing near you on Fandango. But it’s also available on Hulu starting Feb. 19.

Want to see what other films are on Lisa’s list of the Best Films of the Year list? Find them on ReallyRather.com.

In her Nomadland review, Lisa Johnson Mandell explains how Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao make a film that could change the way you think about life. 

 

In her Nomadland review, Lisa Johnson Mandell explains how Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao make a film that could change the way you think about life. 

 

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and recently founded the new lifestyle website ReallyRather.com, where celebrities and experts share their 5 favorite things in the fields of entertainment, lifestyle, wellness, home and food & drink.

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