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Film Talk: Looking back – A trip down the road with Oscar-winner Nomadland

By most definitions, this one is certainly not old enough to be considered a 'classic'. However, looking into the crystal ball, there is absolutely no doubt that one day it will be viewed as such, and well, I like to be first.

Frances McDormand as Fern in Nomadland
Frances McDormand as Fern in Nomadland

In honour of this weekend's Oscars ceremony, let's take a look at the winner of last year's Best Picture award, and a film that may just be one of the greatest ever to hit the screen...

Written, produced, edited and directed by Chloé Zhao, 2020's Nomadland is a captivating and compelling drama that tells of a woman's stark lifestyle change and her literal and metaphorical journey to find herself again.

Based on the 2017 non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, the flick stars Frances McDormand as a widow who leaves her home to travel around the United States in her van, meeting various other 'nomads' along the road...

Nursing a broken heart and a shattered life, Fern (McDormand), a former substitute teacher, finds herself forced out of her Nevada home town when its primary centre of employment is shut down.

With no job and facing an uncertain future, Fern crams her paltry but treasured belongings into a run-down van and hits the road, travelling across the US in search of new work, new hope and a new life.

As Fern embraces a new nomadic lifestyle, she encounters kindred spirits in other travellers, many of whom lost their homes following the 2008 financial collapse. Though as Fern is set to discover, home is not always a place; sometimes it is people...

Garnering critical acclaim from the moment it was first shown, Nomadland premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion. It also won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The flick was a box office success, grossing $39 million worldwide against its $5 million budget, and received bountiful praise for its direction and cinematography, as well as for McDormand's incredible performance.

At the 93rd Academy Awards, Nomadland won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress, paying McDormand her almighty dues.

Chloé Zhao became the first Asian woman and the second woman ever to win Best Director, and McDormand became the first woman and fourth person to win Academy Awards for both acting and producing.

Scooping up accolade after accolade, Nomadland also picked up the gongs for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, four awards including Best Film at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, and four awards including Best Film at the 36th Independent Spirit Awards.

The flick is a consummate masterpiece anchored by McDormand's stellar turn, though the beating heart and true joy of Nomadland is in Zhao's casting of a number of real-life nomads as fictionalized versions of themselves, thereby grounding the flick in authenticity.

Beautiful, soulful, stirring and strong, this one is a film that will make you think, feel, question and contemplate, drawing you entirely into the world of its core protagonist.

Nothing less than a complete and utter triumph, Nomadland was fully-deserving of its Best Picture Oscar, and whichever nominated flick takes the gong this year has got some mighty shoes to fill.

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