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Rated 3 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Cinematic Journey
by Betty Jo Tucker

Before my husband and I watched Nomadland two times, I never thought about buying a van and traveling through the Southwest, picking up jobs along the way and learning the rules of the road. Now I feel envious of the many modern nomads who have made that decision. Of course, there’s loneliness plus weather problems and no indoor plumbing. But the natural wonders to see and the freedom involved are compelling reasons to consider this lifestyle instead of the closed-in world of today.

Nomadland stars the great Frances McDormand, who appears in every scene and delivers a raw performance as a widow trying to live this type of existence. But don’t expect an extroverted character like the angry mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This time, McDormand must draw on her inner strength and project that on the screen. Mission accomplished. Her facial expressions and body language show us a woman in her sixties coping with tragedy and still not giving up or blaming anyone. She’s taking things day by day and helping others along the way.         

Deserts, mountains, plains and the road

beckon Fern, so she packs a load

into her van and off she goes.

Why this way to escape her woes?


Great Recession caused things to change.

   Her life needed a re-arrange.

The town she lived in was wiped out.

So time for Fern to leave, no doubt.


On her journey new friends she makes.

and lots of jobs she gladly takes.    

But most of all she sees the West

with gorgeous landscapes at their best.


Frances McDormand makes us care

in a role where her soul is bare.

“Nomadland” may seem way too long.

   But music helps it move along

Including real people who are part of the van culture makes this unique offering so realistic! Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells stand out. Bob (Godfather of the VanLife movement), offers counseling and regular get-togethers, Linda May becomes Fern’s good friend, and Swankie gives her excellent advice about vans.  

Also, kudos to actor David Strathairn for his gentle performance as Fern’s admirer. Their short dancing and precious dinner plates interactions are priceless!

Writer/director Chloé Zhao deserves credit for this adapted version of Jessica Bruder’s novel. She managed to put everything together with meticulous care. Joshua James Richards’ cinematography adds beauty to the film, and Ludovico Einaudi’s pensive, melancholy music helps set the mood in many scenes.

For me, Nomadland ends up being poetry in motion.

I’ve always been deeply drawn to the open road – an idea I find to be quintessentially American – the endless search for what’s beyond the horizon…It was the spirit of the Old West and it’s still the spirit of today.” --- Chloé Zhao   

(Released by Searchlight Pictures and rated “R” by MMPA. Available on Hulu.)          .

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