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Criticism | Nomadland – Oscar 2021’s big favorite is a powerful and heartfelt drama

At the end of the 2000s, the capitalist world was going through a new final crisis which became the worst since the New York stock market crash of 1929. Starting from scratch, the United States, again the epicenter of a real estate bubble that exploded and which brought enormous damage to the country’s banks and working life, they saw an exponential increase in the number of unemployed and destitute people who lost their homes and had to look for another way to survive – and it is, in short, the premise that guides the acclaimed dramatic tour. de-force ‘Nomadland’, by Chloé Zhao.

From its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to its official release in theaters around the world, the feature received tremendous attention for a number of reasons, but primarily for the spectacular presence of Frances McDormand as Fern, a woman who lost her husband and her job and became a nomad alongside so many other Americans – driving across the country in a van and arranging jobs at various businesses and restaurants in the Midwest. Zhao, not only by writing the adaptation of Jessica Bruder’s eponymous non-fiction novel, but by commissioning and putting together each of the intricate pieces of this journey, rose to the level of one of today’s great directors, garnering attention. onto the mainstream scene years ago after his cinematic debut in 2015.

The narrative, as already mentioned, centers around Fern. Heading into the peak of old age, the character build may not be one of the most explosive ever seen in movies, but it captivates us with the humility and emotional transitions it goes through on a just over an hour of screen time. McDormand, marching to his third Oscar statuette after ‘Fargo’ and ‘Three Ads for a Crime’, brings to life the most moving and at the same time simple portrait of the obligatory deconstruction of the ‘American Dream’, bringing criticism to predator ideology which benefits the people, the elites and puts the working class on the path to eggs, never certain of what the future awaits. But Fern seems “fine” with the situation and seems to have met countless other nomads who have long been his confidants and friends who never actually existed.

Moderate and respectful, our “heroine” treats everyone well and knows that she can learn from those who have been on the road the longest. Despite this, she is limited to her own presence and tries not to build lasting emotional bonds, either with the famous Swankie (Charlene Swankie) or with the charming Dave (David Strathaim). It is also for this reason that her isolation and points of reflection, which lead her to remember her late husband and her life as an urban servant with a sinful nostalgia – which may not seem touching to the public who do not expects no romantic melodrama.

Like ‘Songs My Brother Taught Me’, 2015, Zhao boldly employs a color palette that does not vary much and is exiled in the melancholy of blue and a sparse yellowish glow as inviting as it is fleeting. Each of the hundreds of external sequences resembles the documentary aesthetic the director has imprinted in previous productions, leaving aside the scenic whims of field-to-field (with rare exceptions) and making way for a fluidity fabricated in continuous shots. and intimate – showing that the vastness of the world is, in fact, a vicious cycle that leaves nowhere and reaches nowhere. The icing on the cake comes with the artistic contradictions imagined by the director: at the same time that Fern is alone, she knows who to trust; the serenity of life in contact with nature recalls choices and uncontrollable situations which have marked consequences on everyone’s life.

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Dividing the film into concise acts is difficult and unnecessary work, as Zhao is much more adept at non-narratives. Essentially working over the course of a year, Fern’s arc begins during Christmas and New Years celebrations and ends the same – except that McDormand’s surrender bears more scars and more memories that don’t. will never come back. And, ultimately, revisiting what once belonged to her in the distant past, she is faced with whirlwinds of emotions that make her wonder how this path differs from the one normalized by society – and who is likely to be. an arbitrary and condescending one. empathy.

It’s impressive to see that none of the aspects of the long failure to deliver exactly what it promises: the dichotomy between dawn and sunset is transferred even to Ludovico Einaudi’s minimalist soundtrack and understated photography. and tragic by Joshua James Richards. Even so, with all of these infusions going beyond a simple case study, it’s very likely that “ Nomadland ” won’t suit everyone’s tastes – but it deserves to be considered the dense anthropological and sociological analysis that it really is.

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