Nomadland ★★★★

This is a gentle and loving story about grief and loss, for people and things and ideas of who you are. There is a mannered ambition here that wasn’t as prevalent in Zhao’s earlier work, and is absent from similar films like the also superb Leave No Trace. But there’s also more to back up that ambition, in particular an effortless central performance and a painterly eye for composition and storytelling. The Searchers reference at the end serves less as a flashy filmmaker nod and more as a signal that this is meant as a eulogy for the promise of what America meant to its core fanbase. What we have been left with is a bonfire to toss our final memories into, hoping we can retain a bit of their warmth as they go up in flames.