Film review: Oscar-winning Nomadland is a 'beautifully realised and affecting drama'

Frances McDormand in the film Nomadland.

Frances McDormand in the film Nomadland. - Credit: Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios

Cinemas can open again following the easing of lockdown restrictions this week and there's some stunning movies to see on the big screen.

Royston Picture Palace in Melbourn Street will welcome back film lovers from Friday, May 28.

The first movie to be shown on the community cinema screen will be the Oscar-winning Nomadland, which can also be seen at Saffron Screen in Saffron Walden from Friday, May 21.

Here film critic Paul Steward reviews Chloé Zhao’s stunning movie.

Winner of three Oscars, including the prestigious best picture, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, which debuted on Disney Plus in April, will finally get the big screen treatment in UK cinemas this month.

Frances McDormand, who won her third best actress Oscar for the role, plays Fern, a woman in her sixties who finds herself homeless after the death of her husband.

She takes to the road in a campervan to begin life as a modern day nomad.

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Earning money from occasional work at an Amazon warehouse, the film follows Fern as she undertakes both a physical and emotional journey through the vast landscape of the American West. 

A unique film without any clearly defined narrative, Nomadland is essentially a series of meandering interactions between Fern and the people she encounters. Yet describing it that way does the film a disservice.

Cinematographer Joshua James Richards brilliantly captures the film's extraordinary locations, creating immersive visuals, and the accompanying Ludovico Einaudi score gives the movie an enchanting quality.

Cinematographer Joshua James Richards brilliantly captures Nomadland's extraordinary locations.

Cinematographer Joshua James Richards brilliantly captures Nomadland's extraordinary locations. - Credit: ©Disney

McDormand is an outstanding lead as always, and in keeping with the film delivers an understated, non-showy performance, whilst still managing to convey Fern's emotional struggles as she comes to terms with her loss. 

The film's melancholic nature is at times overwhelming, yet as Fern embraces the nomadic spirit, there is also an air of hope.

David Strathairn lends support as Dave, Fern's new-found friend and would-be suitor. However, the rest of the cast is made up of non-professional actors and real-life nomads.

Frances McDormand stars in Nomadland.

Frances McDormand stars in Nomadland. - Credit: Searchlight Pictures

The fact this isn’t at all noticeable is testament to the filmmaking skills of Chloé Zhao.

The Chinese auteur picked up the best director Oscar for the film and made history in the process, becoming only the second woman in history to do so.

Her film is an atmospheric character study of somebody dealing with grief and loss, whilst also shining a light on a way of life many will be unfamiliar with.

The film's lack of plot and slow, contemplative pace will be a turn off for some, but viewers willing to succumb to the overall mood of the film will find it a rewarding experience.

Nomadland is a beautifully realised and affecting drama that can only benefit from the big screen experience.