Nomadland – Made for the Big Screen

In Features by Samuel Love

Deservedly showered in Academy Awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and Independent Spirit Awards, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is a film that everyone needs to see. At its core a beautiful and poetic snapshot of a way of life that is rarely captured on screen, the film mesmerises in its simplicity – those expecting any shock twists or particularly exciting sequences will be left disappointed. Nomadland is a film far more interested in portraying a quiet, tranquil life on the road, and the connections made along the way. So, you might not think it is the sort of film that requires a big screen. Hell, it’s available on Disney+, so why fork out the extra pounds to see it at your local cinema?

Frankly, I haven’t seen a film this deserving of the big screen experience in years.

I should preface this by saying I may be rather biased; I’ve worked in the exhibition sector for years, and am incredibly passionate about it. The past few months of dark auditoriums and lifeless projectors broke my heart, as I’m sure it did many others. But as cinemas excitedly open their doors again this week and audiences take their seats before that beautiful silver screen once again, let me say – perhaps controversially – that Nomadland is a film that is far more deserving of this format than the bigger blockbusters you’ll find at the multiplex, like Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat.

The cinema is a place of escapism. Once those house lights go down and the projector comes to life, you’re transported to another world. Whether your cinematic journey takes you to Middle Earth or a galaxy far, far away, that experience is heightened considerably when you’re in the cinema. The distractions are minimised – having a quick scroll through your Twitter feed during a film’s quiet moment is one of the worst habits I have when watching at home, and I think if you were being honest, you’d say the same about yourself. But not in the cinema. No, in the cinema, I switch my phone off and put it in my pocket. Emails and social media spats can wait until later. In the cinema, we are committed to going on a journey. And this is where films like Nomadland shine.

Nomadland is, as I said at the beginning, a very gentle and understated film. It’s a film that, surrounded by distractions at home, might not be able to quite so easily hypnotise you. The poetic pacing and tender delivery of the film’s narrative is so richly compelling in a darkened cinema, that I guarantee you will find yourself lost in its magic as it quietly washes over you. I attended a screening this morning and you could hear a pin drop. We – myself and the audience – were right there on the road with Frances McDormand’s Fern, listening intently to our fellow nomads’ stories and feeling the warmth of the campfire on our faces. It was a blissful experience and it wasn’t until the film’s credits finished rolling that I realised just how much I had missed the cinema. I left the auditorium and suddenly my mind became full once again with the distractions of modern life – had I paid that bill? Had I responded to that email? Did I have any likes on my tweet? While I was watching Nomadland, I didn’t even know what a tweet was. And it was wonderful. If I’d watched the film at home, would I have been so impacted by Bob Wells’ final monologue? It’s hard to say for sure, but I know for a fact that seeing it at the cinema today made me weep. 

And we haven’t even gotten into Joshua James Richards’ breath-taking cinematography that cries out for a big screen.

So, you may be tempted to go and see a big ape punch a radioactive lizard in the face this week now that cinemas are open again, or maybe your kids are planning to drag you to see a talking rabbit stirring up shit on a farm. But if you have the opportunity, I implore you to take a trip with Nomadland. I promise you, the experience you have will be a poignant reminder of why you love cinema and how much you have missed it. I know I had tears in my eyes at the end of this morning’s screening, and they weren’t just for Nomadland. Long live cinema, and long live film.

NOMADLAND is in UK cinemas now.