‘Nomadland’ review: Blurring the Lines Between Fiction and Reality


Starring: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Charlene Swankie, Linda May, Bob Wells

Written for the screen and Directed by: Chloé Zhao

Based on the novel of the same name by Jessica Bruder

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Letterboxd Score

We, as a nation, have become more and more individualistic. The idea of the nuclear family is slowly dissolving away. More and more so-called American traditions are fading into obscurity, stemming from the dismantling of gender roles—and rightfully so, but as we grow further and further away from each other; Who can we rely on for support? Once upon a time it was the responsibility of the parents to establish their newly formed adult child and that gesture to eventually be paid back when our parents turn elderly and can no longer provide for themselves. Nomadland addresses this very issue in a very poignant and deliberate way.

Based on the non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland was originally a project that set out to highlight the growing number of nomadic older Americans living the west deserts. Profiling several Americans affected by the financial crises, or victims of the unstable social security system. The book follows the actual stories of real life Americans, whereas the film takes the inspiration from the book, however Zhao takes it to a new level by introducing the fictional character, Fern (Frances McDormand) and telling the true stories of the “nomads” through her.

What is interesting about this film adaptation is the way Zhao takes some of the actual characters you learn about in the book and brings them to the fictional world. One of the characters in the film, Linda May, is actually a key profile in the book. I think that’s what made Nomadland so magical. It felt so real, because it was real. Zhao’s vision of blurring the lines of reality and fiction is not new, of course we’ve seen this with other projects such as Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat. However we haven’t really explored this sort of style of filmmaking in dramas and after Nomadland I really want to artists explore this newer genre more.

Nomadland is special. It’s one of those films that after you experience it for the first time, you remember it, you think about it. You think about how impactful it is and how it left such an emotional mark on your soul, it inspires action. If you get the chances to see this film, I could not recommend it enough.

Expected theatrical release February 19th, 2021

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