a Slow Movie That’s Probably Not for Everyone

The movie that stole the Oscars this year was none other than Nomadland, a film from new Best Director Oscar-winner Chloé Chao that follows a woman named Fern (Frances McDormand) as she embarks on the road in her van to live as a nomad following the Great Recession and the death of her husband. 

An overall gritty film, it doesn’t shy away from the discomfort and claustrophobia that comes with nomad-life and the sense of loss that can follow a person no matter how far they travel. Chao doesn’t hesitate to confront us with these sometimes painfully realistic truths right near the beginning of the film, getting up close and personal as Fern cooks on the tiny stove in her tiny van within the first five and a half minutes. 

It’s not especially easy to watch either, the characters consistently furthering themselves from potential happiness, but if for nothing else, it is a film that definitely deserves to be lauded for its truthful depiction of a rough reality. It was not pleasant to watch Fern walk away from her potential love interest, David, after he reconnected with his kids, but the acting was undeniably spot-on and was honest in its depiction of people struggling with very difficult life decisions. 

But whether or not you’ll like Nomadland all seems to come down to one thing: your perception of Frances McDormand’s reality, seeing as the execution of the movie is essentially built upon her shoulders. She positively thrived in the role of Fern, and I think it’s unquestionable that she was the right choice for Best Actress at the Oscars. She brings a reality to an extremely difficult role that left me feeling like Fern had to be merely an extension of McDormand herself. Fern feels inherently real, in every moment. 

But still, that element of reality is what causes Nomadland to potentially fall short with some audiences. For those who come ready for the slow, silent scenes and the hard moments, sad moments, and simply difficult moments, you will not be disappointed. There are many times when you won’t be able to help thinking that everyone involved in a scene deserves better, or that something bad happening to someone just isn’t fair, and Nomadland will offer few truly joyous or exciting moments to break them up. That is what this film is all about. 

And for most high school audiences, that’s not what they’re looking for in a movie. They want something that is effortlessly entertaining, and something that confronts them with their own privileges of what it means to be free and happy does not exactly fit that bill. 

If you want a movie to make you think, change how you feel about modern historical events and their effect on people, expand your cinematic horizons, then give Nomadland a try. But if you just want something good to watch on a Friday night, I’d recommend finding a different pick.