allain’s review published on Letterboxd:
It’s December 30th and there’s less than forty-eight hours left before this not-so-pleasant year ends. The sky is cloudy and a little bit gloomy–an indication that rain might occur in the next couple of hours. I’ve watched this film at four in the afternoon and it’s now eight at night; it’s now dark, it didn’t rain, but the wind persisted, and the remnants of the apple I was eating during the film is now brown. I stood up and contemplated, as the credits of the film rolled for the second time, thinking of the masterpiece I just witnessed twice in a row. Nomadland has no cohesive plot nor engrossing premises; it’s actually boring–watching a day-to-day life of a homeless elderly woman isn’t the most interesting of things–but for me, it’s more than that.
There’s something incredibly fascinating in watching snippets of someone’s life. How they work, how they interact with other people, and how they struggle and adapt to their problems and surroundings–it’s all distinctly unique from person to person and it’s this uniqueness that captivated my attention all throughout. The film is nothing but fragments of Fern’s life in her golden years, where due to an unforeseen economic crash, turned her into a nomad–an emerging American tribe living in camper vans, roaming across United States and looking for seasonal jobs here and there for a living.
The anti-capitalistic and radical nomadic nature is felt throughout the film. Yes, the people we see interacting on-screen are technically homeless; they may have no permanent address and always on a lookout for ways to earn money, but they are never pitiful. It’s quite the opposite–they’re the most content and overjoyed because they’ve broken the materialistic chains that have been binding them for years. Since the inception of time, society has dictated that the more you have, the better you’ll be, to the point that you exhaust yourself into getting that dream house or that expensive vehicle you’ve seen on television, but that really won’t make you happy, or at least not in the long run, because eventually, you’ll crave for more.
It really may sound cliche but the real key to happiness is being content of what you have. Fern and the others don’t have much, but they’re still cheerful and elated. The smiles on their faces are genuine, as they gather around a campfire, telling their life stories to one another. They may seem to be alone, but they’re not, because they have each other. Human connection is what makes life better and it is best exhibited in this film. The feeling of not thinking about debt or chasing the new trends is extremely euphoric and freeing. This is what living really is about–full of hardships and struggles, but still finding solace in life despite everything.
Chloé Zhao fleshed out a melodramatic slice-of-life drama that portrays life in its fullest and I sincerely thank her for showing an immensely impactful feature that is as reminiscent and inspiring as Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). The film gave an unbelievable amount of euphoria in the simplest of things, making me observe and appreciate every minute of my existence. Nomadland is an ethereal experience one must watch before this year ends and I can’t stress that enough.