D: Chloe Zhao

Searchlight / Highwayman / Hearsay / Cor Cordium (Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey & Chloe Zhao)

US 🇺🇸 2020

108 mins


W: Chloe Zhao [based on the book “Nomadland: Surviving America In The 21st Century” by Jessica Bruder]

DP: Joshua James Richards

Ed: Chloe Zhao

Mus: Ludovico Einaudi

Frances McDormand (Fern), David Strathairn (Dave), Linda May (Linda), Charlene Swankie (Swankie), Bob Wells (Bob), Peter Spears (Peter)

The 2020 Oscar winner for Best Picture is a uniquely unconventional film, based upon a book by Jessica Bruder that doesn’t have a narrative and is merely a series of interviews with modern day nomads.

The film revolves around Fern (Frances McDormand) following the death of her husband and loss of her home after the Gypsum plant in her industrial town shut down, leaving her jobless and homeless.

She sells her possessions to buy a camper van, travelling from place-to-place for seasonal and temporary work.  She meets an array of characters along the way (most of which are real-life people playing themselves) and comes to settle in her new lifestyle.

Though the film is a refreshing change to the standard, I can’t help but think that the subject matter would have worked much better as a documentary and (as good as she is) Frances McDormand’s fictional story simply cannot outweigh the numbers of real-life stories that transpire amongst this movement.

I certainly could have done without the product placement for Amazon in this film, especially since it’s presented as some sort of haven for travelling workers. Again, this could have been more candid had the film been made as a documentary.

I can’t deny that it’s well handled by Chloe Zhao, but I also believe that the Oscar victories were due to campaigning and tokenistic gestures rather than the quality of the film itself.  Sadly, I think this is one of the weakest films to ever win the prize.


Frances McDormand in Nomadland
Frances McDormand in Nomadland