2021, 108, R

Screenwriter: Written, directed and edited by Chloé Zhao, based on Jessica Bruder’s “Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century.”

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells.


If any of the films eligible for the 2021 Academy Awards cry out to be experienced in a cinema on a large screen, it is Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland. Based on Jessica Bruder’s “undercover” book on the itinerant workers who roam the open spaces of the West, it captures both the romantic desire for solitude and transcendence, as well as the dangers and hardships that come with cutting yourself loose from society. The great Frances McDormand (Fargo, Olive Kitteridge, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Fern, a Nevada widow who lost her house when the mine in her town closed up. Living on the road in her white van, she drives from job to job: harvesting beets in Nebraska, tending campsites in South Dakota’s Badlands, and working in an Amazon fulfillment center. The images of wide-open vistas are amazing, but so are the faces of the real life drifters (McDormand and Straithorn are the only actors) that express everything that they have seen. Although Chloé Zhang is the first Asian women to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Directing, her film was banned in China for her remarks on the current government.

“What starts as a tone poem to the idiosyncratic urges that drive us swells into an ecstatic hymn to the ties that bind us — to each other, and to the fragile, stubbornly enduring natural world we inhabit alone, together.” – Anne Hornaday, Washington Post.