Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
Similar to her previous film “The Rider”, Chloé Zhao´s new film “Nomadland” is an intimate, authentic, and heartfelt portrait of a usually overlooked demographic of American society, in this case nomads. I don´t know Zhao´s inspirations, but the documentary-like style and narrative, breathtaking landscapes and classic western themes as well as motifs, and the poetic, contemplative mood make “Nomandland” feel like a mix of Italian Neorealism, American (neo)-western, and Terrence Malick movie.
The film has a slow and meandering episodic plot without any “big” moments, but the enthralling atmosphere, resonating themes, and raw emotional power leave a strong impression. I also have to praise the stunning cinematography, which wonderfully captures the natural beauty of the country, as well as the Malick-like editing and evocative score.
You can interpret the movie as a critique on capitalism, but ultimately, it´s more about people than politics, and most of the themes are of a personal nature such as freedom, home, identity, loss, grief, self-reflection, moving on, and especially community and human connections. The film oozes warmth, grace, and humanity, and the tone ranges from melancholic over bittersweet to hopeful and uplifting. The portrayal of the lifestyle is always gentle, respectful, honest, and non-judgmental, and the use of non-professional actors for most supporting roles and cameos further enhances the sense of authenticity. It truly feels like you are witnessing real people with their own unique stories. Still, the standout is of course the professional actress (and two-time, maybe soon to be three-time, Oscar winner) Frances McDormand, who carries the movie with ease. She fully disappears in her role and her performance is natural, layered, and heart-wrenching. And her character is so different from Marge Gunderson (“Fargo”) or Mildred Hayes (“Three Billboards”), which shows once again what a versatile and masterful actress she is.
All in all, I think a stronger, more cohesive plot wouldn´t have hurt the experience, but the film works perfectly as a soothing, touching, and thought-provoking mood piece, character study, and social commentary. “Nomadland” transported me to a world I knew nothing about and that´s one of the things I love most about cinema.
Chloé Zhao has a fascinating artistic voice and I´m very curious to see how she handled her first big blockbuster, Marvel´s “Eternals”. It seems like a strange match for me, but that´s what makes it so interesting.