Directed by: Chloé Zhao
Written by: Chloé Zhao
Starring: Frances McDormand, Patricia Grier, Linda May, Bob Wells, Charlene Swankie
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Nomadland dedicates itself to meticulously detailing one woman’s journey through her older years following the destruction of her life caused by the Great Recession, winning 3 Oscars along the way for best actress, director, and picture. That description alone, coupled with a clever title and Frances McDormand, sets expectations very high.
My first instinct upon watching the film was a strong dislike, so I waited to write this review for a couple weeks. I thought it was boring, but maybe I needed time to digest the details; outside of McDormand I didn’t think the acting was very good, but I knew much of the cast consisted of real people so maybe their performances needed to ferment within my mind to reach maturity; the themes were too contradictory, but maybe it had indeed melded the positives and negatives of extreme poverty into a charming story, so I gave it a chance and thought about the film for weeks before penning a write-up.
Now the time feels right, but I still don’t think the film was great, though I realize my disappointment is at least in part due to these high expectations. The film is also emotionally driven in its portrayals of poverty and mental health and whether or not these scenes were cinematically successful, they were powerful either way, making the separation of theme and film quality all the more painstaking.
In the end, it’s one of those movies that I respect but just cannot enjoy. I value its messages, but it doesn’t deliver them in a valuable or memorable manner, making it immediately forgettable and ultimately unimpressive despite its potential, praise, and public opinion.
I don’t regret seeing it, but I probably won’t watch it again this decade. I recommend most people watch it, but only to see for themselves how wayward the selections of the Academy have become in recent years. It’s not a bad movie, but it most definitely was not the best film of 2020.