For Nomadland, writer-director Chloé Zhao adapted Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century into a screenplay, got Frances McDormand to star in the movie, and hasn’t looked back since.
The film, the third in the Beijing-born Zhao’s trilogy of a sort on the state of the American West after 2015’s Songs My Brother Taught Me and 2017’s The Rider, has been among the most honored so far this movie-awards season. The streak started with a rare double: snagging the Golden Lion at Venice and the Audience Award at Toronto – two Oscar-bellwether wins. It since has picked up Best Picture, Actress and Screenplay wins from various key critics groups, was named to the Top 10 films list at AFI and scored nominations in all three categories in the past week alone from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.
Nominations also include from the USC Scripters, which recognize both the adapted screenplay and the original work. It was Bruder who set off in an old van to follow along with “workampers,” the Great Recession-driven low-cost labor pool of mostly transient older Americans who hit the road in RVs, vans and travel trailers as migrant workers. She discovered along the way their resiliency, and how their sense of hope is fully intact.
Zhao built the story on Fern (McDormand), who packs her van after losing almost everything and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. David Strathairn co-stars along with real-life nomads Linda May (who accompanied Bruder for her book) and Swankie.
As Deadline’s Todd McCarthy wrote in his review of the film, which McDormand and Peter Spears produced after acquiring rights to the book: “[Nomadland is] an observant, simple, contemplative work, one uninterested in manufacturing melodrama or hyped-up incident, but rewarding for its illumination of Americans who represent societal afterthoughts, mostly older working people left behind in backwaters and on the sidelines with no prospects at all.”
After a December qualifying run, Nomadland opens wide February 19 via Searchlight Pictures, whose track record of Oscar success includes Best Picture wins for Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave, Birdman and The Shape of Water.
Check out Zhao’s screenplay below:
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