Not long now until we can all grab the popcorn and head back to the big screen, but in the meantime ESP’s film reviewer Gavin Miller takes a look at an Oscars favourite to and gives his verdict on whether Nomadland is worth the trip…
Usually when an Oscar winner is announced it won’t be to everyone’s taste – and this profoundly moving film will prove to be just as divisive.
But those willing to lose themselves in this slow-burner of a drama – that has clinched Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress gongs at the Oscars and BAFTA Awards (and the first two at the Golden Globes for the Drama category) – will find a beautifully-crafted movie that tells a sad tale of a town destroyed by the recession, and how one woman tries to move forwards from the tragic events.
Based on true events, it sees Three-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri) – who became the first person to win both a Best Actor and Best Film Producer award at the Oscars for the same film – stars as Fern, a forlorn former employee of collapsed construction materials company US Gypsum, which single-handedly destroyed the livelihoods of the population of Empire, Nevada in 2011.
Having lost her husband to cancer, and losing her house due to the recession, Fern decides to opt for a nomadic lifestyle by purchasing a van to live in and travel the western side of the States – initially starting with seasonal work at Amazon.
Her best friend Linda (Linda May), then invites her to a desert rendezvous support system – where she meets fellow nomads and learns basic survival and self-sufficiency skills that take her through Arizona, Badlands National Park, the West Coast and beyond.
Still obviously grieving over the death of her husband, meeting the likes of the terminal cancer-diagnosed Swankie (Charlene Swankie) and the kind-hearted Dave (Good Night, and Good Luck Oscar nominee David Strathairn), slowly brings the lonely Fern out of her shell.
And while the story doesn’t pull out any shocking set pieces or dramatic plot devices – that may make it too plodding for those looking for a more high-octane fix – director Chloe Zhao (only the second female director to win the Best Director Oscar) methodically constructs a moving drama that evolves into an emotionally-visceral tale, that boasts terrific editing and cinematography around McDormand’s sensational acting – with a sad politically provocative message about America’s working class being hung out to dry due to corporate collapse.
What this leads to is a land that artistically has many moving parts, and if you can find the time to get in the soul of Fern – you’ll be rewarded with a poignantly kinetic slice of cinema history.
And a love letter to America’s breathtaking ‘wide open’ spaces to boot.
ESP Rating: 4.5/5
Platform: Disney+ (Star Channel)
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Gay Deforest, Bob Wells & Charlene Swankie
Running Time: 1 Hr 49 Mins
Director: Chloe Zhao