“Nomadland”: An Oscar Worthing Win


Maeve Ridings, Staff Writer

I will not debate that Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland is breathtakingly beautiful.  It is a wonderful meditation of life in grief and how those feelings are fueled by the economy and society.  However, this film felt to me nearly as meandering as Fern herself. “Nomadland” depicts the story of Fern, a woman in her sixties who is grappling with losing everything in the wake of the Great Recession. She embarks on a journey into modern-day nomadic life living in her van and engaging with fellow nomads across the United States.

For the first half of the film, I was engaged enough to be invested in Ferns life and happiness, or lack thereof.  However, the further into the movie I got, the less I felt I was rooting for Fern.  The shocking lack of growth is highlighted so blatantly in the end I am unsure of what I am intended to take away from these 108 minutes.  Fern’s return to her hometown, I believe, is meant to signify her facing her grief and past as she continues to embark on her nomadic journey, but it played far to stagnant for me to feel there was any actual change from the beginning scenes of the movie where she was departing from the same location. 

I did adore the nomads themselves as they traveled in and out of the film.  The authenticity they brought was tangible and integral to the film, and they highlighted the lifestyle that Fern was embarking on in a real way. Without them the film would have played far too removed from reality for me. As much as I can analyze the decisions Fern makes as a character, it is impossible to do the same for the real individuals that make appearances.

While, again, I do not debate the technicality of this film being good, it left me feeling desolate and lonely.  Perhaps the intended feelings the film withdrew from me were only exacerbated by the current state of the world. Nonetheless, the bleak desolateness that followed after this film will ward me off from entering any sort of nomadic van lifestyle myself.  

I am incredibly happy this film was nominated for and won Oscars.  Chloé Zhao is a genius unto herself, and I have no doubt she will go on to produce more introspective and emotionally strickening films. Her winning of best director and best picture broke numerous glass ceilings and provided a role model for young women around the world. After 2020, a year of female directors being shunned for the nomination of best director, it fills me with joy to see such a deserving and accomplished woman receive the praise she so rightly deserves.