“I’m not the kind of filmmaker who just makes films,” Chloé Zhao told IndieWire earlier this year. “I have to be in love with my subject matter and want to learn more about it. Someone once said to me that passion doesn’t sustain, but curiosity does. I have to be excited by little things I discover along the way.” Zhao’s approach is just one reason the upcoming “Nomadland” ranks among the best films of 2020. Starring two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand, the acclaimed drama won the Golden Lion at Venice and the People’s Choice Award at TIFF.
McDormand stars as Fern, a woman in her sixties who rebounds from losing everything in the Great Recession by journeying through the American West as a van-dwelling nomad. While the film also stars “Good Night, and Good Luck” Oscar nominee David Strathairn in a key supporting role, the majority of “Nomadland” finds McDormand acting opposite real modern-day nomads, including Linda May, Charlene Swankie, and Bob Wells. Zhao wrote the film’s script using Jessica Bruder’s nonfiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” as a guide, but she also made sure to fold in the real life stories of the nomads themselves.
“You could watch her script adapt to the personalities and stories that came from those conversations,” Zhao’s directing assistant Hannah Peterson told IndieWire about the “Nomadland” creative process. “You could see her listening to these individuals telling their stories, and then collaborating with them to fold their own narratives into the script. Chloé really allows people to choose how they want to represent themselves. The safety of fiction filmmaking, in my opinion, actually pulls out a level of honesty and authenticity that I think would be impossible if this was a documentary purporting to truth.”
IndieWire’s chief critic Eric Kohn named “Nomadland” the fourth best movie of 2020, writing, “The film develops an entrancing narrative about American alienation and the appeal of escaping society’s oppressive clutches. Zhao embraces the paradox at the center of a story that both celebrates its character’s liberation and bemoans that sad state of affairs that put her on that track. As America contends with its divided identity, ‘Nomadland’ both captures the zeitgeist and embraces the fantasy of leaving it all behind for life on the road.”
Watch the official “Nomadland” trailer in the video below. The film had an awards qualifying run in virtual cinemas earlier this month. The trailer says “Nomadland” is “coming soon,” while the film’s official Twitter account mentions a February 2021 release.