Showroom Cinema: Why I think the film is so special

In the early hours of Sunday, the Oscars ceremony took place, and it came as a surprise to absolutely no one that Nomadland won top prize.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 6:00 am

I realise I have been banging on about Nomadland for months, but this week, I'm going into a little more detail about why I think it's so special.

Nomadland stars Frances McDormand as Fern, a woman who, following the death of her husband and subsequent loss of their house, starts a new life in a modified van. She travels across America's west picking up seasonal work wherever she can and, after a few particularly lonely nights, finds herself in the desert where she meets a rag-tag community of modern nomads.

Much of Nomadland's beauty lies in its narrative simplicity. It is a picture of simple lives that hold deep complexities within them. The film adapts Jessica Bruder's vivid non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. Though Fern's story is fictionalised, the rest of the film is populated by real-life people playing versions of their own stories.

If you have seen director Zhao's previous works, The Rider and Songs My Brothers Taught Me, you'll know that this space between documentary and fiction is where she truly thrives. Zhao brings deeply authentic stories to screen and giving them show-stopping cinematic flair. It's a winning combination, and here with a powerhouse performance from McDormand, the results are truly enchanting.

Nomadland struck a chord with me because of its themes and how I related to them through the current times we're living in. It's a very culturally specific film that criticises capitalism through real stories of older people left with nothing.

But within this, it deals with more universal themes that will be of relevance to many: loss of work, independence, loved ones, and how we manage to deal with those. It paints a triumphant portrait of the human spirit in the hardest of times. I watched it in the second lockdown, and though I know my experiences of this pandemic have been easier than many others, I won't pretend it hasn't been hard. In many ways, Nomadland helped me begin to heal.