Nomadland – Blu-ray Review


 Author Jessica Bruder first documented the nomadic lifestyle in her Harper’s Magazine article, “The End of Retirement,” and soon expanded upon that with her book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.” Much like the nonfiction book that the film is based on, Nomadland goes on a journey alongside nomads who were tossed aside during the financial meltdown of 2008. These people either couldn’t find their way back or didn’t want to, so instead, they became nomads. The film is an intriguing hybrid of documentary and narrative fiction. Frances McDormand’s Fern is the narrative thread that intertwines with the real-life lifestyle of nomadic living. That’s essentially what the film is. It’s not about an existential crisis or a political statement, it’s a poetic reflection about the resilience of humanity. That’s the powerful message of what this film is trying to convey. 

Similar to what she did with The Rider, director Chloé Zhao employs the services of a myriad of non-trained actors. When it comes to Nomadland, it features some of the real-life nomads from Bruder’s book. They complement Fern’s journey—offering guidance, aid, and support. The acting by these non-trained actors is surprisingly good. Frances McDormand’s ability to act alongside non-trained actors gives the film such an authentic feel. She’s able to give a natural performance that lets these non-trained actors feel comfortable as they deliver their lines.

Yet the real stars of the film are Mother Nature herself. Zhao and Joshua James Richards gorgeously shoot the sweeping landscapes—taking place in several US locations such as Arizona, Nevada, and Nebraska.

Overall, Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand have collaborated on a film that celebrates hope and optimism through an emphatic and warm tone. The film will not be for everyone. Nomadland moves at a slow pace that may not resonate with some viewers. However, if you’re willing to bypass all of that, then it’s a journey you won’t soon forget.

Movie Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Nomadland - Frances McDormand


Nomadland hits Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-AVC with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Joshua James Richards’ cinematography uses a lot of natural light to capture the gritty documentarian feel of the film. As a result, the film isn’t necessarily bright, but the areas of the scene that are well-lit (see: the sun) are bright without any bloom. So the shadows and nighttime scenes have a lighter shade of black with a reddish tint to them. Also, don’t be surprised if you see several crushed and solid blacks in a few scenes. That’s just a result of the film’s natural lighting.

At the same time, Richards’ use of natural light plays into the colors as well. The colors may not look bold, but the natural shade of colors does capture the earthy tones and beauty of Mother Nature. For a 1080p Blu-ray, the edges and details are still incredibly crisp—even when you’re up close to your television. Overall, this is a pretty-looking presentation.

Video Rating: 5/5 atoms

Nomadland - Frances McDormand and David Strathairn


Nomadland hits Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The film is relatively quiet, but there are certain scenes, such as inside the Amazon warehouse, where the rear channels just come alive. That being said, there are subtle atmospheric effects, like the van’s engine rumble or random dogs barking, that add a bit of immersion to the scene. For the most part, Ludovico Einaudi’s hauntingly beautiful piano compositions fill up the soundstage by using both the front and rear channels. Dialogue is perfectly leveled and audible the entire time. Overall, this is a nice audio presentation for this kind of film.

Audio Rating: 5/5 atoms

Nomadland - Frances McDormand

Special Features

Nomadland‘s Blu-ray disc has the following special features on Blu-ray disc:

  • The Forgotten America
  • Telluride Q&A with Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao
  • Deleted Scenes
    • Lunch Interrupted
    • A Gift From God

“The Forgotten America” is a behind-the-scenes featurette that looks at the nomadic lifestyle and the colorful characters that live it. It’s incredible to see the non-actors (who are nomads actually) give their take on why they live this lifestyle. The Q&A is a typical standard post-screening Q&A. However, it is interesting to hear from the real nomads themselves: Swankie, Linda May, Bob Wells, and Derek Endres. The deleted scenes are interesting to see but were better served on the cutting room floor.

Special Features Rating: 3/5 atoms

Overall, Nomadland is a poetic film that celebrates hope and optimism through an emphatic and warm tone. The video presentation perfectly showcases the film’s spectacular cinematography, and the audio mix is a simple mix for a very reserved film. It’s just unfortunate that the special features are a bit lacking.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Nomadland hits stores on Blu-ray on April 27th.

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

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