‘Nomadland’ review: Frances McDormand stars in Chloe Zhao’s movie about a rootless life on the open road

Based upon the book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” the movie stars McDormand as Fern, whose income dries up in her little Nevada town, triggering her to load her possessions into a rundown van and struck the roadway.

Along the method, she experiences a variety of other modern-day wanderers — lots of played by individuals in fact living that life — creating passing bonds, taking part in philosophical conversation and sharing pointers about enduring this hard-bitten course.

As with her Oscar-winning function in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” McDormand interacts a lot of unhappiness and discomfort with simple expressions. Undoubtedly, Fern is a lady of couple of words, discovering a repeating existence along the method in Dave (David Strathairn, among the couple of identifiable faces beyond hers).

There’s a Zen-like quality to the collected wisdom that Fern receives, and the colorful, eccentric personalities that she meets, each of whom has a story to tell.

The van, meanwhile, basically becomes another character, to the extent that it’s a not-terribly-reliable companion on this journey of personal discovery, which doubles as a tour of America’s great open spaces. After a year in which many have found themselves cooped up indoors, there’s unexpected pleasure in that aspect alone.

Still, Zhao’s movie is really defined by its texture and tone, and there’s not a whole lot of meat or momentum to the story. Ultimately, it’s a window into a way of life that will seem foreign to most in the modern age, approaching its practitioners in academic fashion — offering a chance, without judgment, to walk (or drive) a couple of miles in their shoes.

More practically, the release is clearly timed as awards bait in this topsy-turvy, pandemic-lengthened season, and the film should pick up its widest exposure via streaming on Hulu.

“Nomadland” is a meticulously crafted little film, anchored by a star at the top of her game. Yet it’s possible to enjoy the movie on that level and still come away feeling if the movie makes much sound in the awards hunt, it’s an indication that this was a fairly weak year.

“Nomadland” premieres Feb. 19 in choose theaters and on Hulu. It’s ranked R.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.