Nomadland (2020)
February 19, 2021 10:12 PM - Subscribe

A woman in her sixties embarks on a journey through the Western United States after losing everything in the Great Recession, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
posted by ilikemefi (7 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed it. It's a love letter to the mine closing in Empire, NV in a way. I've both lived in my van and also spent two months out of the year for a decade right near there working Burning Man, so maybe it's just one of those quiet movies made for me.

I'm pretty sure the old guy at the storage unit was the actual owner of it. I've stored a trailer there and met him once, you can see his house across the road from the unit she's at in the movie. There's a shot at the end where she's going back to Empire, except she's driven past it and is at the train tracks at the bend in Gerlach. But that would make sense because there'd be Bruno's or the Miner's Club open, and she could use a phone to call the owner of the storage unit from there. Once I rode out of Gerlach at the beginning of October and there was snow on the peaks and that final shot of the movie with the low clouds was just about how it was. Though that shot, I'm certain, is her driving to back to Gerlach. (I've seen that very view many times always at a different time of the year.)

Also the short scene in the walmart at the beginning of the film, I think that would be the one off the back way into Reno where you take a right at Pyramid lake. It was always the preferred way for me to head into Reno as it's quieter, but a little longer. But yeah, when she runs into her former student, that's the shirt for the K-12 school out there, which I believe is closed now. I think the mine employed a couple hundred people, and Gerlach had about 350 people living there around 2011, but now there's only about 125 or so, if that.

Also liked how you could tell where she was in the country by the landscape. To see the cactus and know she's in Arizona because it doesn't quite look that way in Nevada. Or I'm kinda sure the ghost town she walks into is off in California north on the 447 towards Cederville. And when you see the giant fallen redwood you know just where she's at. (That house in northern California! Horses! Expensive!)

This movie made me miss those big sunsets living out west. Not so much the cold living in a van in winter. Not a movie for everyone, but I loved it.
posted by Catblack at 9:52 AM on February 20 [11 favorites]

When I first heard about the movie, I was super stoked about the concept and McDermond and it definitely doesn't disappoint.

It's gorgeous at times and oozes authenticity.

But ouchouchouch, it hit a little close to heart. Though it does highlight the joy that's still possible, to be found with other people. Reminds me of the quote from the 'Callahan' series by Spider Robinson, "Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy."

Loved Strathairn in 'The Expanse' as Ashford; I'm definitely going to have to look into more of his work.
posted by porpoise at 2:50 PM on February 20

This managed to be uplifting and depressing at the same time. The performances are all fantastic, both from the professional actors and non-actors. They're all so intimate and humane that there's no divide between the pro and amateur performances.

Loved Strathairn in 'The Expanse' as Ashford; I'm definitely going to have to look into more of his work.

Definitely check out Passion Fish. Outstanding performances all around, and a great soundtrack.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:37 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]

This is really one of the most remarkable pieces of filmmaking I've seen in a long time. It blurs the lines between fact and fiction and just settles on "truth." Frances McDormand is incredible here but I don't think she's acting so much as she's just existing. It's so beautiful.

I know Linda May and Swankie were real people, as is Bob Wells. I love that about this movie. It's giving these people a voice and dignity. There's no judgment as to why these people have picked this life, but it's not romanticizing it either.

I know this has been marketed as some kind of prestige Oscar-bait. It's so much more complicated than that but I also feel like if that gets people watch it, I'm OK with it. I thought I'd like this but I like it so much more than I expected.

Chloé Zhao directed the MCU Eternals and I'm just kind of like, give her all the money. Give her all the money to go make more beautiful movies like this.
posted by edencosmic at 7:01 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]

I read the book a while back and I recommend it really strongly. It’s nonfiction and there’s much more of an editorial voice which I kind of missed in the movie tbh. There’s a lot of information about that Amazon program and about Empire and just a general ton of information about nomads, about who is living on the road and why. It’s very different than the movie.

But the movie is beautiful. I lived in my tiny camper for 7 months and traveled around the country; my greatest regret is not going to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in 2018 when I so easily could have. It would have meant backtracking though and I was going forward, ever forward. I loved seeing places in the movie where I too had been.

I really liked the movie but I have so many conflicting thoughts. It struck me as so sad but it was beautiful too. The book lays out the economic realities in much starker tones: most people living this life do not choose it, exactly. They don’t have Northern California mansions waiting for them - that was the one part that rang a little false for me.

So many thoughts! Did anyone else feel as if the colors were really faded / muted? I couldn’t figure out if that was a deliberate aesthetic - it kind of made sense - or just a random chance from Hulu and my TV.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:56 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]

Yes, the colour palette was mostly cooler. It might be general colour de-saturation? For a bleakness effect as a signal for, possibly, cognitive clinical depression.

I felt that film grain was manipulated for similar purposes (either in post, or in choice of camera- or film- type/ lighting).
posted by porpoise at 12:51 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]

This was so well acted and directed.
At every turn when the characterisation of Fern and others could have veered towards maudlin or heavy handed thematising of home-free people, Zhao reined in any sense of emblematic treatment.

In a very natural way in dialogue, the filmic language as it ranges across faces, rituals, van equipment, domestic spaces, warehouses, the kitchens of Wall Drug cafeterias, the toilet blocks of Badlands etc, the towering presence of nature’s beauty (and the economy it provides to seasonal workers) vignettes are so artfully constructed yet seem so unvarnished.

I really liked that the glimpses into Fern’s histories - with family, work and marriage - gave her a dignity and strength to the choices she made to live how she does. Even though the film shows that help is offered with permanent shelter and connection to similarly valued people, her choice not to stay is one we are ushered to feel is in tune with all we have seen of her life and history.

I saw this film a few weeks ago and it has stayed in my mind so much since. I’m Western Australian but spend a lot of time in the film’s locations (my partner is American) and it was just such a beautiful film in all its sensory presentation and development of character. McDormand was a fine choice to represent Fern and the supporting cast also excellent.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:20 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]

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