Nomadland, winner of a Golden Lion, Golden Globes and Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Actress in a Leading Role, is based on journalist Jessica Bruder’s 2017 investigative book of the same name.
Director, Chloé Zhao, is a US-based, Chinese writer and producer, with two critically acclaimed movies to her credit. Both Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) and The Rider – A Cowboy’s Dream (2017) are marked by dramatic events that immerse and challenge their protagonists and set in the broad expanses of nature, featuring landscape shots with leaden sunsets shot through with the purple rays of the setting sun. Nomadland, made in Zhao’s recognizable style, tells the story of Fern – played with realism and resilience by Frances McDormand, of Mississippi Burning and Fargo fame. After her husband’s death, Fern leaves the city of Empire, Nevada to cross the western United States in her van, equipped as a small mobile home.
The focus of this road movie is not the mythical, adventurous or epic road of Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise who are seeking freedom from the patriarchy; nor is it the road of Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, rebelliously traversing the continent in the saddle of a motorcycle; nor the road of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, a quest for a million dollar prize.
Nomadland projects the slow rhythm of the van as it travels the asphalt of the endless, straight roads that crisscross America like deep wounds allowing encounters between “traveling travellers to be saved,” as the singer-songwriter Ivano Fossati put it.