‘Nomadland’ recently won a slew of awards including the 2021 Best Picture Oscar. That may mean nothing to a jaded few whilst others have hailed it due to its themes and performances. Living a nomadic existence, whether by accident or design, draws fascination for some. The idea may feel very tempting as a way of escaping the increasingly frenetic pace in which the world lives. ‘Nomadland’ shows a different side to this notion as its reluctant wanderers searchi for answers.

Following the economic collapse of her town, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs up her belongings and travels the American West in a van. Wanting to break free of everyday society, she roams the land exploring life. She meets other nomads such as Dave (David Strathairn) and Linda (Linda May). They change Fern’s outlook and alter her future in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Directing from her own script, Chloe Zhao crafts an interesting essay of a different lifestyle. Creating a new life from the remnants of the old, the nomads in her story have various reasons for doing so. Not all are economic, with emotional and physical scars guiding the restless spirits away from their troubles. This aspect makes ‘Nomadland’ engrossing viewing. Unfortunately the screenplay meanders into other directions taking away from the film’s power. ‘Nomadland’ doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions in seeing the story through to a logical conclusion.

The biggest issue ‘Nomadland’ faces is how its main character is presented. Despite McDormand giving yet another solid performance, her character is difficult to connect with. Her stand-offish demeanour makes it hard to feel much sympathy. Coupled with several slow patches and occasionally unfocussed narrative, ‘Nomadland’ is less than it should be. A plus is the cinematography which perfectly captures the vast landscape as the wild, dusty vistas envelop those determined to forge another path.

Despite its structural flaws, ‘Nomadland’ becomes fascinating when examining the nomad’s unique world. It almost makes a persuasive case for discarding modern life and drifting into calmer waters. Given the amount of awards won, it has resonated with many who desire a sea-change with a difference.

Rating out of 10: 6


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