Film: “Nomadland” starring Frances McDormand
In the early 2010s, a major industrial company in small-town Arizona closed shop and left, leaving its workers with no prospects.
Faced with this grim situation, Fern (the main character played by Frances McDormand in “Nomadland”) abandons her company housing, buys a van, and hits the road. This exquisite but sad film follows Fern through a year of her newfound nomadic life.
Let us just say that Fern’s new life isn’t exactly a stay at the Four Seasons or even a Motel 6. When her makeshift van breaks down, she has to repair it herself. When she can’t afford the fees at an RV park, she has to move on or get arrested for parking illegally.
On the bright side (if you can call it that), Fern constantly gets to interact with other nomads, who are mostly elderly and white, and who are more or less just like her in their fiercely independent approach to life. They take odd jobs when they can get them (anything from packing for Amazon or cleaning toilets). When the day’s work is done, they gather together for singalongs at RV camps, or share sad stories around a campfire. And while some still have families and friends who would accommodate them in a heartbeat, these nomads wouldn’t live their lives any other way.
This un-Hollywood-ish, unsentimental film was written and directed by the amazing Chloe Zhao. With the exception of McDormand and David Straithorn (who plays a potential love interest) the cast consists of actual nomads, and the overall feel of the film is strongly documentary. I humbly suggest that the Italian neo-Realist directors have nothing on Ms. Zhao.
“Nomadland” is my favorite kind of movie—the kind that not only breaks your heart but makes you think. And what you think about most is the plight of America’s have-nots—in a country where the haves are mostly still calling the shots.