Written and Directed by Chloe Zhao
A widow in her 60s named Fern (Frances McDormand) lost her home in the town of Empire during the recession in the late 2000s. She decided to go on her van (which she called Vanguard) to hit on the road and live the life of a nomad in the American West. She went from town to town getting whatever job she could get (in Amazon, beet farm, etc.) to earn a living. She met different people along the way and talked to them about their families, their jobs, their illnesses, and their lives in general.
This acclaimed film written, directed, edited and produced by Chloe Zhao was a meditative journey into slices of real life in America's heartland. Zhao just wisely allowed real-life modern-day nomads to tell their own stories, documentary style. Gritty McDormand blended right in with the others, giving a performance so restrained but honest, with her heart out on her sleeve.
This quiet film may not not for everyone as there was no real plot, but the seemingly pointless, rambling nature of "Nomadland" had its own charm. The non-actors around McDormand and David Straithairn (playing David, a nomad who reconnected with his family) had been chosen well, remarkable in their ability to deliver lines without being self-conscious.
A lot of scenes only had gentle music or even stark silence accompanying the images onscreen, but they were nonetheless magnetic and poetic.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."