Nomadland ★★★★½

“What’s remembered, lives.”

Memories are a strange marvel, aren’t they? How do we choose to collect our memories, keep them intact, and encapsulate them? I’ve always trusted that my brain would file away the important ones. There are some I pull out of their folders so often though, and each time they take on a different shape. Like I’m constantly rewriting the story, making it a little more romantic, or a little more intense. What if I could keep them closed off for 20 or 30 years & pull them back out. What would they look like then? Would they be more authentic... more truthful?

Fern seems to hold onto her memories through a small number of objects that she keeps in her van – her home. Some plates passed onto her, a ring she cannot take off her finger, a coat we see her bring to her face at the beginning, recognizing a familiar scent, and family photos that she looks at under the warm glow of her lantern. You can feel the importance of these items, and know they when she touches them, what she’s really doing is holding onto a memory & remembering that at one time, it was real. That it was all right in front of her. Because there is so little to hold onto, and so few people that stick beside her. Sometimes a memory can feel like an embrace. 

Frances McDormand is the heart of this film, and I was unprepared for how her performance would root inside me. Her face is like a landscape – it invites you in, it comforts you, it steadies you. You look at her, and you know. There was a moment where she just touched someone’s leg, and I cried. It was overwhelming to see for some reason, the way she gives and connects. And at the same time, she takes so little. She protects her space, let’s people in until they’re off again, and convinces herself that’s enough. 

If what’s remembered lives, then I think this film will live forever. It’s like a box of relics, all scattered in front of you. What you decide to pick up, and grasp, and touch once again, is all up to you.

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