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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review--"Nomadland"


Even after a year of pandemic, Hollywood has begun its annual award season, and is honoring films.

One of the award winners doesn’t deal with Covid-19, but looks at another recent unsettled time in America.     It’s the subject of Libby Wadman’s Friday Film Review.  

Director Cholé Zhao has returned with her third film, "Nomadland", which once again showcases her ability to create moving films mixing fact with fiction. It is done so perfectly that "Nomadland" is the 2021 Golden Globe winner for Best Picture Drama.

"Nomadland" is the story of Fern, a woman from the small mining town, Empire, Nevada, which actually ceased to exist in 2011. Life had been good to her with a strong marriage and a home she loved in a town she loved, but now, with her husband dead from cancer and her town being shut down due to the economic downturn of 2008, she is packing up her van and taking off to parts unknown. With her roots torn up and destroyed she is living a new life as one of the nomads, a portion of the population that have decided conventional life is not for them, or, as it is with Fern, all that she held dear is gone. This is her story of trying to define a new life in which she can once again find comfort and trust on her own terms.

Director Zhao has taken her inspiration for "Nomadland", from the book of the same name by journalist Jessica Bruder, and added to it just the right amount of fiction to make the story one the viewer can take part in, yet is no less powerful than a documentary might be. Zhao’s genius comes from her ability to take non actors, in this case some of the actual nomads chronicled in the book, and let them be the stars in their own story.

Frances McDormand, as Fern, is the one major celebrity in the film and might easily have overshadowed her costars, but her strength as an actor in "Nomadland" is demonstrated by her ability to step back and let each of the Nomads tell their story of how they chose that life. McDormand’s approach allows each of them to be the shining stars of the film, and rightly so.

"Nomadland" was filmed in seven states, each with their own geological beauty. Fortunately, the cinematography captures the uniqueness of each. Perhaps the best shots were of the desert. It is hard to believe that the vastness and magical quality of the desert could translate to the small screen, yet in this film it does. The fact that it does, only serves to enhance the openness of the Nomads’ lives and their limitless possibilities.

"Nomadland" is poignant, insightful, thought provoking and full of the goodness we should all try to share with others. This is not an easy life, yet for these folks it is very fulfilling. The conventional world let them down in different ways, so they have chosen to try something different and while they can’t always rely on the traditional life of families, and communities, they can always rely on each other.

Rated R for some full-frontal nudity, "Nomadland" is a beautiful and inspirational 1 hour and 47 minutes in length. It is now streaming on HULU.

This is Libby Wadman with the Friday film review, reminding you that film is always fun and fascinating.


Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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