Film Review: “Nomadland”

Zur deutschen Fassung.


In the land of the free, the middle class is free to descend into poverty and homelessness rather quickly. One bad divorce, a factory closing, medical bills, and poof, you are as free as you never wanted to be.

“Nomadland”, a highly-acclaimed film, purports to shed some light on the lives of those folks living in RVs, vans and anything in between, moving from wrapping your Amazon packages to flipping burgers, from selling Christmas trees to harvesting sugar beets, never earning enough to rent a home, let alone buy one.

This is an important subject, worthy of a good film. Sadly, despite all its accolade and praise, “Nomadland” does a lousy job. So bad that if the film was one of these minimum-wage workers, it would have been fired on the second day on the job.

The day-to-day struggle of the nomads – cold, hunger, health, fuel costs, safety, being driven away when they just want to sleep – are only touched upon briefly. The film spends much more time showing sunrises and sunsets and a van driving down a winding road in Nevada, as if it was all one glorious road trip.

Once, there was a sentence about the cost of housing, but nothing about the inherent unfairness of unlimited private property of very limited land. But then, one of the old drifters gets to say something esoteric about freedom and friendship and stuff. As kitschy as “Eat Pray Love”, but filmed among the poor. Like poverty porn, for the well-off to enjoy and to think: “Well, those people chose to live like that.”

And even if you don’t expect what I expect from a movie about a pressing social issue, you are in for a terribly boring two hours.

The film is based on the book “Nomadland” by Jessica Bruder, and from the interviews I have heard with her, it seems the book is heaps better than the movie.

What did you think? And what films/books do you recommend on homelessness and poverty? I still think that “Grapes of Wrath” is one of the best.

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About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Books, Cinema, Economics, Travel, USA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Film Review: “Nomadland”

  1. Haven’t seen this yet. I liked “Minari”.

  2. I was homeless for a while after I left my mother’s house. I was working 30 hours a week and making decent money… above Minimun Wage. I slept in my 1970 Datsun 510, or occasionally rented a cheap motel room for a night.

    Getting paid weekly, I was never able to save enough for first month rent and security deposit, which is what is required by most landlords… yes, “landlords” is a better fit than “property managers” or any other pretty words.

    I haven’t seen this movie or read the book, but I have to agree with you that Grapes Of Wrath is fantastic book.

    With all the short term vacation rentals taking rental properties off the market, finding and *staying in* a rental home is more difficult.

    Oops! I’ll get down off my soapbox before I *really* start ranting.🤐 This post is a film review, not an article about homelessness.🤦🏼‍♀️

    • I was actually thinking of you and your story as I watched the film. But then, the film was that boring that I could think of plenty of other stuff while watching it…

      And I did make the film review about homelessness, so your personal story is much appreciated!
      Especially as it seems that a lot of middle-class, let alone rich folks, don’t seem to be aware of how quickly it can happen. And despite working and earning, as you say. Too often, homelessness is equated with drug addiction and such.

      These vacation rentals or “second homes” really should be banned as long as other people are still homeless. Nothing against traveling, obviously (would be weird if I, of all people, was against it), but ever since I became aware of the problem, I am not using AirBnB anymore, unless it’s a family who are simply renting out one room of the house they live in. (Although I still prefer Couchsurfing, because it’s free and there is more community spirit there.)

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