Direction: Chloé Zhao Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Bob Well Country: USA, Germany Year: 2020 Release date: 3-26-2021 Genre: Drama Script: Chloé Zhao (Book: Jessica Bruder) Photography: Joshua James Richards Synopsis: It tells the story of Fern (McDormand) who, after the closure of a mining operation that ruins an entire town in Nevada, packs his bags and, aboard his truck, embarks on a trip that departs from the well-trodden paths and archetypes of today’s consumer society. And on that journey, Fern is going to become a modern nomad.
To discover that there is life beyond the walls of the consumer society.
In American culture, the highway is more than just a territory of transit, more than a route between two fixed points. The idea of a nomadic life is at the origin of the nation, in the journey of the pioneers who crossed the American lands in search of prosperity. Then came other dreamers: Jack London and his libertarian ideals, or Jack Kerouac and the beatniks, who found their own path to artistic creation and the sublime life ‘along the way’. With the 21st century, another nomadism arrived, studied by the journalist Jessica Bruder in her book País Nómada. Survivors of the XXI century (edited in Spain by Captain Swing) and now taken to the cinema, in documentary key, by Chloé Zhao, which portrays an itinerant community made up of elderly people who lost their properties in the great recession of 2007-2009.
The truth is out there
This is not the first time that Zhao has proposed a hybrid route between documentary and fiction. Hers, two of her previous films –Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) and The Rider (2017) – already interwoven the work of professional and amateur actors, who showed her real modus vivendi on the screen. Thus, Nomadland brings together various testimonies of people who have found in nomad life an alternative to ‘the tyranny of the dollar’: debt, garbage work, the consumer spiral … This collection of truthful experiences propels the fictional odyssey, full of integrity and sensitivity, from Fern (Frances McDormand at the height of the most expressive secrecy), a woman who decides to hit the road after the death of her husband and the literal disappearance of her people.
The new salt of the earth
Following in the footsteps of a noble line of Yankee filmmakers focused on the study of marginal life – from Robert Kramer to Sean Baker, through Kelly Reichardt – Zhao builds Nomadland by pursuing a formal sobriety and a certain narrative heterodoxy (the soundtrack, too intrusive, and some small excess of landscaping would be the only weaknesses of the film). The result is a film that does not seem to follow a pre-established course, but is built on luminous discoveries: the beauty of the places that we discovered together with Fern, the dignity with which people face adversity, the emotions and shared hugs … Signs of life with which to combat contemporary confusion.