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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz


Too Beautiful To Identify

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is a warm smile and a tight hug of a film that's dedicated to those very rare souls the film follows. One of these souls is Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman who in 2011 loses her job after the US Gypsum in Empire Nevada shuts down. She had worked there for years with her recently deceased husband who was her world. After selling most of her belongings, the resourceful Fern takes off in her newly purchased van to live and travel the American West in search of work.

After taking a seasonal job at Amazon through the winter, Fern meets a community of Nomads whose lifestyle soon becomes not only her own but also her own identity. There are still difficulties. It is still life after all. But really, there's something so quiet and tranquil yet loudly empowering in Fern’s journey. She's not simply existing - she's being. She's experiencing what it is to live away from the cruel realities of modern society which is probably not how she sees it. She's too good-hearted to even think that escape is why she's living the way she is. For her, there is no reason. It just happened. Very much like a pair of pants that fit her so well she never bothered taking it off again.

All the other nomads are living the way they are for all sorts of reasons but at their essence, they're just like Fern. They focus solely on what's most important at the moment and never stray from that. They're also very welcoming and very friendly. They teach newcomers the ropes and celebrate those who are no longer with them. They don't need to search for happiness because they have it. They live in the moment. “I'll see you down the road. There are no goodbyes.” They all live by this motto and none of them are lost because they're not looking to be found.

Aside from Frances McDormand and David Strathairn, the entire cast is made up of non-actors. Real nomads all contribute to the telling of their stories and their authenticity is like a facial mask being peeled off because by then, they're all absorbed in you.

McDormand’s performance is her most gracious and humble because she's not stepping into a role, she's simply showing herself in another life. She's not thinking about it too hard. Actually, she's not thinking about it at all. She's living in the moment just like all the other Nomads and by doing that, she breaks free.

The cinematography will make you feel like you're the one in the van. Wherever Fern goes, you go too and every sight is worth the ride. The nomads believe that living nowhere means you live everywhere and every sight the camera captures makes you feel at home, in both the darkness and in the light. The score is the best I've heard this year. It's the kind of soothing music spas use.

Overall, I vote Nomadland as a SEE. Nomadland isn't the kind of film you watch because you're looking for something specific. Yet, by its conclusion, you will have found something extraordinary. You may not know what it is though. Some things are just too beautiful to identify.

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