Profoundly sad, agonizing to watch; director Chloe Zhao (“The Rider”) and actor Frances McDormand take viewers on an educated, unveiling journey; a journey, countless travel; those whose jobs, towns have vanished, consumed by advanced technology or outdated worthiness; “Fern” (McDormand at her peak of poetic dramatis) is “houseless”, not “homeless” as she, with the utmost dignity, in her battered van, leaves emptiness in her wake, finds temporary employment at Amazon, seasonal tourist venues; bonding with other nomadic peoples, sharing life’s happiness and hazards. With documentary style and insight Zhao filmed actual, nonfictional, real souls divining their own paths; honesty at its pinnacle.
The film belongs to McDormand (also a producer). Stripped of any artifice she imbues Fern with a galvanizing strength, stunning in its magnitude, a quiet kindness, screaming with sincerity, embraces all she encounters; it is her recitation of Shakespeare’s 18th sonnet, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” that seals her place in the iconic realm of celebrated, rarefied performances.
“Nomadland” is a lens into the unexplored universe of those who have chosen or involuntarily placed in a situation where materialism, consumerism is eliminated; off the grid, nomads embalm themselves, in nature’s whims, its opulence, its carnage, surviving or doomed by its mercuriality; without boundaries or parameters, they unearth the beauty that lies within.