Nomadland: everything you need to know about the Frances McDormand movie

As we put 2020 in the rear-view mirror, we're looking ahead to a brighter and better future in 2021. That means you can expect to see lots of Cineworld blog content about upcoming movies.

Today, we're looking in detail at eagerly anticipated drama Nomadland, the new Frances McDormand Oscar contender. Scroll down to find out more.

 

What is the story of Nomadland?

Adapted from Jessica Bruder's book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, this acclaimed drama centres on Fern. Recently widowed, she takes to living out of a van, travelling around America's heartland and eking out an itinerant lifestyle. Taking odd jobs here and there, Fern finds herself mingling with modern-day nomadic communities, people who have left life's conventional trappings behind and essentially gone off-grid.

Along the way, Fern must reconcile with the nature of her life so far, the relationship with her late husband and the prospect of an open-ended future.


Who stars in Nomadland?

Nomadland is, first and foremost, a showcase for mercurial star Frances McDormand. A two-time Oscar winner (for Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), McDormand specialises in people dealing with extreme circumstances. Take the aforementioned Fargo, for instance: during the climax of the Coen brothers classic, her kindly police offer Marge Gunderson comes face to face with inexplicable cruelty in the form of Peter Stormare's Gaer Grimsrud.

Those very same principles are amplified in the narrative of Nomadland. McDormand organically and believably crafts the essence of a woman at the end of her tether, who wishes to turn her back on a life of static routine and 21st-century expectations. But in doing so, she creates a mountain to climb, having to deal with the challenges of living in a confined space in a van in frequently inclement weather conditions. All the while, she bounces from temporary job to temporary job with no secure financial footing.

Fern also has to reckon with her fellow nomads, and this is where the film becomes truly fascinating. Although there are other actors in the movie (David Strathairn among them), for the most part, McDormand is interacting with actual nomadic communities, captured documentary-style for the purposes of the movie. The experiences they relate are, therefore, genuine, and not scripted for the sake of Hollywood melodrama. This means the message of the movie cuts deeper than the usual road trip odyssey – and this is all down to a very singular director.

 

Who directs Nomadland?

Nomadland's mixture of fictional narrative and documentary is a hallmark of director Chloé Zhao. She first came to international attention with 2018's The Rider, a similar mash-up movie that cast a real-life rodeo rider in a quasi-fictionalised take on his life. The film was released to critical acclaim and Zhao was nominated for several Independent Spirit Awards. Even Barack Obama listed The Rider as one of his favourite films of 2018.


Before Zhao delivers Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Eternals, we've got Nomadland to savour.  "I've always been fascinated by the American road," she told the BFI, who screened the movie as part of the 2020 London Film Festival. "When I first read Jessica's book, it was incredible to note the size of the community and the colour of the characters. How amazing their experiences are. I wanted to capture that."

Watch the full BFI interview with Zhao and Frances McDormand below.


What reviews has Nomadland received?

Nomadland has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and here's a sampling of the critical responses.

Peter Debruge, Variety: "Watching Nomadland feels like gazing out on one long, gorgeous sunset. If that's not your thing, so be it, but for those on Zhao's wavelength, the movie is a marvel of empathy and introspection."

Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph: "The sheer compassion of Zhao's direction is one of the film's most elemental pleasures, while McDormand is one of those rare actors who can somehow make the act of listening as thrilling as a barnstorming speech."

Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies: "The melancholy lyricism of Nomadland is something truly special, and this quiet marvel of a film deserves your attention."

 

What Oscars is Nomadland competing for?

Although the 2021 Oscar nominations have yet to be announced, we can expect Nomadland to be a frontrunner in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress categories. 

McDormand may well be on track for her third Oscar (highly likely if the reviews are anything to go by), and Zhao stands a chance of capitalising on the rave critical reviews for The Rider. Zhao's unique cinematic texture, investing us in a central fictional character while also spinning a true story about the complexity of modern-day America, sets her apart as a distinctly accomplished storyteller.

The 2021 Oscar nominations will be announced on 15th March 2021, ahead of the ceremony itself on 25th April 2021.


When is Nomadland released in the UK?

Nomadland is set for UK release (at the time of writing) on 19th February 2021. Stay tuned to the Cineworld blog and on Twitter @Cineworld for more information.