Personally, it was impossible for me to cut Nomadland. For two big reasons. For one, he made the combo of Venice Film Festival, Satellite Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Oscars winning, with a few exceptions, the awards for best film, best director and best actress. Two, the best director in question, Chloe Zhao, directed by Marvel Studios, The Eternals. In short, viewing essential.
But where does the film end and the documentary begin?
Nomadland is a curiosity. Mainly, in the sense that the border between feature films and documentaries is extremely fine. Frances mcdormand and David Strathairn apart from that, these are not professional actors. I want to say that we are in something Borat. If we look at the cast, we can see that their characters have all their first names. In fact, they are real nomads (the subject) hence this thin border. There is even a great anecdote on the subject.
First of all, you should know that many actors in the film did not know that Frances McDormand was a Hollywood star (it must be said that she is far from displaying the glamor of a star). Now for the anecdote. A moment, the nomad Bob wells and Frances McDormand share a moving scene where McDormand’s character Fern recounts her memories of her late husband. Following this scene, Bob Wells privately told her that it meant a lot to him that she told him her story and, in an attempt to reassure her, told her that everything would be fine. Frances McDormand then revealed to her that her husband’s name was Joel Coen (yes, the famous director) and that he was still alive. It was there that Bob Wells discovered she was an actress. If it’s not heavy, I don’t know what you need.
Having seen the famous scene in question (impossible to miss, it is one of the strongest moments of Nomadland), I understand Bob Wells. Frances McDormand delivers a huge performance. On this stage and in the rest of the film for that matter. So, I wasn’t really surprised when I learned that the actress really invested herself in the role to the point of living in a van for four to five months, in seven different states, while doing odd jobs performed by true nomads like packing orders for Amazon. The famous Actors Studio Method.
On the road
Since then, Nomadland is not really a feature film in the classic sense. Instead of having a classic story split into three acts, we are more in the documentary spirit where we follow a person for a period of time. The assembly also marries this style. During most of the time, instead of having scenes built from A to Z, we have more bits of the trip. Where it is the event that guides the feature film rather than the other way around. Afterwards, there are forced scenes, but they are mostly there to reveal Fern’s personality. Inevitably, this can cause rejection from those expecting a classic movie. For my part, I was really unsettled at the beginning by wondering where Chloe Zhao wanted to take me before understanding what she wanted to do and adhering to it.
It was only then that I no longer took it as a film, but more as a documentary while being amazed by the performance of Frances McDormand. It’s a very, very high level. I would have said it enough. Suddenly, by its documentary aspect, Nomadland is fascinating by taking an interest in a caste of people who are not really bankable. Seniors left by the 2011 financial crisis by the wayside. In short, I found myself in front of a humanist film of rare beauty which gave me the feeling of having shared Fern’s daily life. Some shots are breathtaking despite the torn aspect of the realization. I now understand what interested Marvel Studios and it promises for The Eternals.
Through Christophe Menat amused by Chloe Zhao’s reference to Marvel, for a moment, Ferne walks past a cinema and we see the movie Avengers headlining.