Sometimes you watch a film or read a book and every scene makes you want to hop off your couch, get in the car, and go. Watching Chloe Zhao’s film Nomadland was that kind of experience. The film follows a woman learning the ins and outs of being a nomad in the American West. With stunning visuals and superb acting from Frances McDormand and David Strathairn, the film is a wonderful exploration of solo van travel and the emotions that drive people to want to see the world this way.
Nomadland shows the beauty of the American landscape right next to the reality of living in a van. It’s the juxtaposition of the beauty and the mud that makes this film so appealing. Sometimes with the multitude of travel choices, it is hard to remember that the United States has just as much variety in its travel options as international travel might provide. You can be on the windy coast of Oregon and then the desert landscape of the Southwest and then the Redwood forests of California. With international travel grounded for the moment, the lingering landscape shots used throughout the film serve as a reminder of just how much America has to offer to those looking to find themselves in nature.
But the reality of living and traveling in a van isn’t always gorgeous landscapes – the film features the main character sleeping in Walmart parking lots and at gas stations; it features the need to downsize your belongings to just the essentials; it features the moment when your van is dying (as a vehicle will do at some point) and the realization that it isn’t just your transportation in trouble, but your home as well.
What I loved about the film in particular is the way it showcased the solitude of solo travel. Some days you’re surrounded by friends and noise and chaos, and the next day you’re alone. You are the driver, the navigator, the entertainment. Some people thrive on the solitude and others don’t, but you never really know until you test it out for yourself.
Watching this film reminded me of all the travel I want to do in my lifetime and how much I enjoy the freedom of minimal possessions and maximum portability. It served to scratch the itch of wanting to get moving, while also inspiring me to look a little closer to home for my next adventure.
Overall, Nomadland is a wonderful watch and I highly recommend it.