By Mr. Will Wong
All eyes are on Chloé Zhao who debuted at TIFF ’17 with The Rider, topping several best-of lists that year. While her work on Marvel’s The Eternals is on its way to us, sophomore effort NOMADLAND comes with high hopes and she does not disappoint.
The Film centers on Fern (Frances McDormand), a widow whom after the economic crash in 2008, loses her home and lives a content life free to roam as a nomad. Not yet able to retire, she lives out of her sometimes reliable van, taking-on odd jobs as a means of survival. Once a supply teacher, she now takes on temporary work at the Amazon warehouse for a bit. She works as a host at an RV park for a while, among other one-off gigs. She is our eyes and ears into this little-known about world travelling place to place with no destination, meeting several fascinating people along the way, who also live the nomadic life and through Fern, we learn their stories as well. These characters, played by non-actors give the Film an earthiness and soul that feels so authentic and Fern blends right into the world.
The story we want to know most about though is why she chooses this way of life with no benefits to take care of her should she fall ill and not knowing if she has enough money to cover repairs on her van. While at times appearing uncomfortable, she never once complains about the life. And at once when offered a choice to settle down and live comfortably a few times throughout the Film, she never takes them. If anything, she appears even more like a fish-out-of-water dwelling in the world of others. She is enigmatic and McDormand effortlessly draws us into Fern‘s way of life, which is comprised of constant moving parts.
Zhao not only directs, but adapts Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century and the Film feels very much like a Documentary and we are just a fly on the wall. The Rider Cinematographer Joshua James Richards teams-up with Zhao once again, capturing breathtaking landscapes and Fern as part of them, so exquisitely. Visually, Nomadland has an understated sense of style yet a comforting familiarity to it.
Ludovico Einaudi‘s piano-driven Score is soothing and complements the imagery perfectly.
The Film is about surviving and living one’s own truth and while very much a quiet piece, it is a thought-provoking one.
NOMADLAND screens at TIFF ’20 as follows:
Fri, Sep 11
RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place
Sat, Sep 12
Online at Bell Digital Cinema