Nomadland ★★★★

Lately I have been thinking and discussing works (namely literature. I am in school after all) that attempt to humanize a person or people group that has previously been othered. And whether that has been the idealized wanderlust influencer or the men and women without homes, the modern nomad has been othered. And Nomadland is the subsequent attempt to humanize.

My dad texted me after he watched this movie saying “Nomadland, they are in Quartzite where Aunt Kathy and Uncle Rod moved.”
My friend Megan has an aunt that up and left for Montana one day and cut off contact with her entire family.
I have a pseudo-aunt and uncle who live on a tiny boat in a small town in Washington.
These are people.
These are people I have met and talked to and know. But that man on the side of the street with a sign asking for money or that car overflowing with trash and belongings that you pass in a parking lot.
They are other.
They are Fern.
But Fern is also Aunt Kathy and Uncle Rod. And Megan’s aunt. And my pseudo-aunt and uncle.

What this film does so well is tempt us into the beautiful American landscape only to show us that it is (and it always has been) about people. Fern is a whole human being. She has a past. She has family. She has a sense of humor. And she poops in a bucket. She needs to sleep. She likes meat. She has friends. And she’s not more or less human than you or I. So while the plot wanders. And the scenes change. Fern is Fern. And whether or not you like her or affirm her or understand her, she continues to be.

So often in films and novels, I seek to relate to a character. I seek myself in other people’s stories. Nomadland never allowed me to see myself. I feel intentionally distanced from this film. Like it has its hand on my chest holding me back at arms length. I’m trying to be ok with that. It is frustrating. But I wish more films about individuals pushed me away. Because I often find myself (perhaps unintentionally) congratulating myself for watching a film or reading a book about an othered person. As if awarding myself a gold medal in understanding. When in reality I will never understand.

It’s been a floating rock mentality day. This film really hit the nail on the head. And may I add, even if all is vanity and nothing matters, Frances McDormand is maybe perhaps my favorite actress? I really can’t think of anyone else that can hold a candle to her.

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