claira curtis’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I maybe spent too much of my life just remembering..."
Chloé Zhao's Nomadland provides a confronting examination of the most universally experienced proponent to our existence: mortality. Both in the all too familiar secondhand experiences of witnessing the ones we love face their inevitable ends and the far more jarring firsthand experience of death. Death is inevitable. It's pain. It's agony. It's peace. It's freedom. It's the end. It's the beginning. It's a circle within a circle within a circle. For the entirety of the runtime, we have the opportunity to witness vulnerable dialogue paired beautifully with a score that feels like it has crawled from the deepest feelings of longing within your chest and some of the most transfixing cinematography to date for the year.
I was left utterly awestruck by the complete entirety of Nomadland. I think the story of our central character, Fern, falls in an exceptionally rare space that delivers the contradiction of providing true, authentic relatability and a truly dissimilar experience that very few of us can say we have ourselves lived. One of the most compelling things I found within Zhao's work is her choice to tell a story of a way of life that I think so many of us completely look over. How many times have you seen people living a nomadic way of life and as you passed, looked right through them, not actually seeing them for the complex individuals they are? I hate to admit I've done it more than I'd like and I think it's fair to say a majority of us have done the same. The appeal of giving the focus to such a forgotten grouping of people is an exciting breath of fresh air and opens up room for so many different discussions.
I think while the story takes place nearly a decade ago, the circumstances surrounding it are all too relatable in the time we are living now. The struggle to survive in a society consumed with the need for materialistic possessions is exhausting. The pressure to remain a participant in that existence is, at least personally, even more so exhausting. To witness people who are at their absolute lowest step away from societal standards and forge a path so unique and so rare is inspiring. For nearly two hours, Nomadland leaves us with the opportunity to see people at their most basic, at their most earnest, and at their most free.
I really do think it's impossible to step away from Nomadland feeling like the same person. There is so much power in Frances McDormand's performance, so much heart in Zhao's screenplay, so much beauty in the rolling landscapes depicted in Joshua James Richard's cinematography. I have found myself slowing down, breathing deeper, sitting longer, since my watch of Nomadland. I feel more grounded in my humanity, more at peace with the fact that my story will come to an end. One day, whether sometime soon or sometimes down the road, all I will be, will be moments where the people who knew me think of me. I hope I live a life that leaves them remembering me fondly.