Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand, is garnering stellar reviews from critics with some claiming that it is the best movie of 2020.

Nomadland it lives up to expectations based on the overwhelmingly positive reception the neo-Westerner is getting from critics. Based on the non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, The film stars Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves her small town to travel the American West. The drama, directed by ChloƩ Zhao, won top awards at the Venice Film Festival and TIFF in September 2020. After a limited IMAX run, Nomadland officially debuted to audiences on February 19, 2021 and premiered simultaneously in theaters and on Hulu.

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Nomadland focuses on Fern (McDormand), a woman from Empire, Nevada, who loses her job shortly after the death of her husband. Set in 2011, Fern sells her belongings and buys a truck before setting out on a trip across the country in search of a new job opportunity. Along the way, Fern meets other nomads who are willing to teach her survival lessons and tips to make the most of life on the road. David Strathairn is the supporting role in a cast that also features real-life nomads like Linda May, Bob Wells, Derek Enders, and Swankie.

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At the time of writing, Nomadland It has a stellar 95% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus among the reviews highlights the study of the character of the forgotten figures that remained after the Great Recession. Zhao is said to brilliantly tackle contemporary American life, while McDormand delivers another performance of his life in his role as Fern. While the central figure might find a new freedom as a pioneer, Nomadland examines the corners of society that are not often the center of attention. With a host of prestigious award nominations, the film is already a trailblazer for upcoming Oscars. Here’s why critics are tagging Nomadland one of the best movies of 2020:

AV Club:

Nomadland it is, in a way, a condemnation of a system that rewards decades of corporate loyalty with poverty and insecurity. But he’s also remarkably clear and honest about the joys and benefits of life on the road, his combination of documentary and fiction allowing the outcast to tell their stories on their own terms. The result is a nuanced portrait of free spirits rejecting a culture that has rejected them.


Nomadland It feels like a definitive description of post-recession America. Not just as a place, but as a sinking feeling, one that becomes all too real when the film visits a dust-laden seized factory and a series of abandoned houses. It is a moment that silently counts on all that has been lost. But despite the hardships it portrays, the film’s poignant reflection on time, place, and circumstances is the kind you want to step into, live inside, and hold on for as long as possible. He’s ruthless, yet he radiates a comforting and healing glow.


The journey that Zhao has created is wonderful, exploring literal peaks and valleys, as well as emotional ones. Although Fern’s story is made up, the world she travels through is real, made all the more surprising by the rest of the cast and the seemingly insignificant little moments that Zhao chooses to stay.

Weekly entertainment:

It’s also hard to imagine an actress other than McDormand (who also has a producer credit) in the role. She doesn’t just become Fern, she creates her: merging Zhao’s script with her own fierce character in a way that feels almost unbelievably real. Together, they have managed to make that rare thing: a movie that feels necessary and sublime.

Frances McDormand David Strathairn Cast of Nomadland

Most of the critics are also commenting NomadlandThe beautiful cinematography, applauding Joshua James Richards’ work in capturing the downtrodden American West. Despite using the landscape as a vehicle for Fern, some critics felt the narrative lacked focus. There is no doubt that Zhao is an extraordinary storyteller, but some believed that McDormand was the one who propelled the film to greater heights. Pacing may not be for everyone, but even the highlights greatly outweigh the few flaws. This is what the reviewers have noted about the potential critical aspects of Nomadland:

Other travelers talk about spouses and friends who have passed away. Many have been scrapped by American corporations. Those stories are presented without sentimentality or condescension, an admirable choice, but one that occasionally makes Nomadland feel a bit clinical. Even then, McDormand’s commanding and deeply empathetic acting holds the film together. She is so convincing and unaffected that it feels like Fern is another non-actor whom Zhao magically becomes natural on screen.


Fern’s story unfolds in small doses, without dwelling on a single dilemma because Fern can only bother with it for so long before she is ready to move on. At one point, Wells tells Fern that he never says goodbye to his fellow nomads, just “See you on the road.” Anyone hoping for a great moment won’t find one here – as Fern moves on, the movie embodies that line as a mission statement.

Based on recent Golden Globe Award nominations, McDormand may well be on track to win a third Academy Award for Best Actress. Being considered one of the best movies of 2020 has helped Nomadland will emerge as an award favorite, which many predict will take place through the Oscars. Fortunately, the broadcast on Hulu will give more viewers the opportunity to see Zhao’s latest title without the need to travel to theaters. The effect of the pandemic on movie premieres is sure to make it difficult to showcase certain titles hoping to become the next award favorite, but that’s not the case for Nomadland.

More: Read Screen Rant’s Nomadland Review

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