Nomadland Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: Frances McDormand’s acting performance; camera work; director Zhao, who managed to harmoniously fit real nomads into the film Cons: viewing may be a burden for those who are used to action-packed films “Nomadland” / Nomadland

Drama genre
Directed by Chloe Zhao
Starring Frances McDormand (Fern), David Strathairn (David), Linla May (Linda), Charlene Swankie (Swankey), Bob Wells (Bob), etc.
Студии Cor Cordium Productions, Hear/Say Productions, Highwayman Films
Release year 2020
IMDb website

The film was inspired by the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving 21st Century America. In it, journalist Jessica Bruder describes the lives of elderly Americans who travel around the country in vans, working temporary jobs. Many of them were unable to survive the economic crisis that began in 2008 and lost all their property.

Interestingly, after the success of the drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand became inspired to create other worthwhile stories. The actress was ready to become a producer of a new project, and ultimately she contacted director Chloe Zhao, who was interested in adapting a book about people without permanent residence.

Chloe Zhao is a new and quite interesting figure in the world of cinema. She is a Chinese woman who has been making independent films about American realities for the past few years. The heroes of Zhao’s poignantly human films were residents of Indian reservations and cowboys going through life’s trials. After this, Zhao’s career took a rather unexpected turn – she was appointed director of the film adaptation of the Marvel comics “Eternals”. Perhaps she will be the one who will be able to add something new to the story about a race of superhumans, managing to rediscover Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek and Kit Harington. At least, I would like to believe so.


Judging by the situation with the pandemic, the premiere of a Marvel film with new heroes is still very far away. But the time is right for “Land of Nomads” – as can be seen from the publications of Western film critics, the film may be nominated for an Oscar. This is quite logical, the film is imbued with social drama that conveys the reality of the destroyed American dream. And these are not just screenwriters’ tricks; excerpts from completely real stories are heard on the screen.

The fact is that Frances McDormand and David Strathairn are the only professional actors who appear in the film Nomadland. The rest of the characters are very real people who lead a nomadic lifestyle and unite in peculiar communes. It is absolutely amazing how Chloe Zhao manages to liberate these people, fitting them into the framework of a feature film, where they stand freely in front of the camera and sincerely share their experiences.


However, Frances McDormand’s character is completely fictitious. The actress plays a woman who, after the death of her husband, is forced to leave home. The heroine equips a van, turning it into a home on wheels, and travels across the states in search of seasonal work. She has been on the road for more than one month, but still there are many discoveries along the way that come to her through other people.

It seems that the life of a nomad is completely unbearable. It is filled with discomfort and endless problems that arise on the road. However, the director gradually reveals the other side of the nomads, who find their mission in supporting the wandering and choose freedom, unacceptable for a person living within four walls. As McDormand’s character once says, “I’m not homeless, I’m just houseless.”


Watching a movie like Nomadland can be a frustrating experience for those who are used to fast-paced, action-packed films. Here the creators have completely different values ​​- first of all, we see the realistic life of the main character, we get to know people who lead a similar lifestyle, and gradually begin to understand her. When the nomad is faced with a choice, we know enough about her to understand the character’s final action.

There is something in the film that makes such a mundane story beautiful in its own way. This is camera work, thanks to which you can see the beauty of sunsets in the boundless desert landscapes. Here, the lonely van of Frances McDormand’s heroine finds a place that belongs to her without established laws and orders.

“Land of Nomads” is an interesting example of feature cinema, which contains documentary inserts with the stories of real people. Alongside them, Frances McDormand delivers a very natural performance that fully conveys the experience of life on wheels.


The film successfully combines acting and stories of real nomads. This is an American story of social decline that becomes freedom. There is a possibility that the film will receive an Oscar nomination.

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