It’s been a lacklustre year for the film industry but Chloé Zhao‘s Nomadland is definitely a cut above the rest. In this strikingly poignant, poetic and wistful adaptation of a book with the same name, Frances McDormand – who has most certainly outdone herself – stars as Fern, a woman who has lost everything during the Great Recession and is struggling to come to terms with it.
In order to make a film as powerful as this, you need to make the correct casting decisions and in Frances McDormand they have found the perfect muse. McDormand excels where others may have struggled in not only breathing life into her character but completely embodying the essence of the film, with its unconventional story arc and seemingly inconsequential sequence of events that come full circle to form a a deeply layered, intimate and evocative tale of survival.
Zhao understands the intricacies, complexities and the ephemeral nature of life and existence, and expertly weaves these into the story, which is replete with gorgeous, dreamlike visuals that are as much about the land as they are about its people.
Hats off to the Joshua James Richards for the spectacular lighting that is extremely difficult to depict, accentuating the essence of the landscape that surrounds each scene. When it comes to the music though, Nomadland lacks vision and a stamp of authority that could have elevated it to a whole different level. Ludovico Einaudi is a brilliant composer but was his work the right choice for this film? I really have my doubts. And the reason for that is he didn’t score the film! Zhao decided to stitch in tracks from some of his previous work – which, marvellous in their own right, leave you wanting – making it an uninspired and extremely familiar soundtrack that may gel with the landscape but ultimately fails to drive the point home.
This may have been my only gripe with an otherwise outstanding film that is sure to win big over the next couple of months. Above all else, Nomadland is a story about exploration and self discovery that transcends boundaries and will resonate with audience members across continents – a true cinematic experience that will make you wish it never ends.