Monday, February 22, 2021

Another of 2020's bests--also Chloé Zhao's & Frances McDormand's best yet--NOMADLAND

So much has already been written about the glories of NOMADLAND, in particular the fine leading performance by Frances McDormand, that TrustMovies will simply provide a short addition to it all. As directed and adapted (from Jessica Bruder's book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century) by Chloé Zhao (shown below), this is by far the best work Ms Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brothers Taught Me) has given us because her continuing use of the hybrid documentary/narrative form grows richer and more assured with each new film.

This time, the coupling of non-actors playing pretty much themselves with top-notch actors like McDormand and, in a major supporting role, David Strathairn, doing the heavy-duty lifting via their utterly truthful and realistic performances results in a movie that is close to seamless when it comes to any division between fiction and documentary. The strength of the film comes not only from the performances of McDormand (below, center) and Strathairn (further below) but from the fine screenplay and smart, generally sparse, dialog. Zhao's visuals are likewise both called for and unshowy. 

My spouse reflected, once the film's end credits had passed, that he expected Nomadland to be both "depressing and all about victims. But it was neither." That has been true of all of Zhao's films. What happens to her characters is a combination of what society inflicts and their own decisions. Which is pretty much true of most of our lives, I think. (The rich are, as ever, exempt from the first of that duo, and you'll find few to none of them in the Zhao world.)

There's a scene toward the end of Nomadland in which McDormand's character, Fern, sits on the stairs watching the Strathairn character and his son playing the piano together. Watch Fern's eyes closely and you'll witness -- about as quietly and subtly as anything you've seen -- a major decision suddenly reached, as well as character revealed. It's just one of so many moments in this terrific movie that seems to effortlessly resonate like crazy.

From Searchlight Pictures (Do we miss Fox? At least Disney hasn't shut down the independent arm just yet) and running 108 minutes, the movie is playing now in theaters, as well as streaming digitally on Hulu. See it.

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