There but for the grace of God go I. That old maxim must go through the minds of a lot of people who instantly slap a particular mental label on folks that don’t have what they do. Usually, it’s the homeless and sometimes it’s the nomads that move from place to place, usually on the edge of town.
Chinese director Chloé Zhao, whose film “Nomadland” recently picked up Golden Globe awards for Best Director and Best Motion Picture Drama, took one of the most honest and heartfelt approaches to depicting this roaming community and made something masterful. She worked with co-producer and star Frances McDormand and built a near documentary film out of the book by Jessica Bruder, known for writing about subcultures.
The film has an authenticity about it, gleaned from the beginning as we see Fern (McDormand) begin her journey alone in a nondescript van outfitted with everything she needs to get by. Fern’s husband recently passed and rather than trying to continue struggling with the money pit of bills, taxes, a mortgage and general upkeep, decides to pare down to only the essentials.
As she embarks on her destination-free journey, she encounters many other people along the way who are just like her. One night at a campground, where all the nomads gather around a campfire, a charismatic leader explains that these are special people. These are people who have rejected the rat race, the kill or be killed automaton society. They know what they want and that’s to stay truly independent.
Fern is still relatively new to this existence and so gets pointers from some of her fellow travelers. She learns to be wary of strangers, how to find the best places to park, what seasonal jobs to find, where to locate water, restrooms, and food. She is even schooled on the right size bucket to use for those times when a restroom isn’t handy.
But, it’s among the people she meets that she begins to refine her need for independence. Even after she encounters a good looking fellow with a well equipped van named Dave (David Strathairn), she grapples with her inner needs and makes a fateful decision that is her own.
McDormand and Strathairn are the only “actors” in the film. Everyone else is for real. These are the real nomads who are in some ways the descendants of ancient explorers, people who desire to live life their own way, and when the time comes, to head off down the road with head held high. These are people who don’t need monuments to their lives. All they want to leave behind are maybe the memory of a few good times. But, that’s it. It is what it is.
“Nomadland” is rated R for nudity and some language. It is now showing at the Storyteller & Cinemas, and is also available on Hulu and other streaming services.
Tempo grade: A+.
For information on additional features, show times, and tickets, visit storyteller7.com or call (575) 751-4245.
Here’s what else is showing at the Storyteller this week …
Science fiction drama
Rated PG-13 for violence and language
Tom Holland, Daisey Ridley and Mads Mikkelsen star in a film directed by Doug Liman, based on the best-selling novel “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness. In the not-too-distant future, Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) discovers Viola (Daisy Ridley), a mysterious girl who crash lands on his planet, where all the women have disappeared and the men are afflicted by "the Noise" — a force that puts all their thoughts on display. In this dangerous landscape, Viola's life is threatened — and as Todd vows to protect her, he will have to discover his own inner power and unlock the planet's dark secrets.
The Croods: A New Age
Rated PG for peril, action and rude humor
Still searching for a place to settle down after the cataclysmic events, the overprotective prehistoric patriarch, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), leads his family to the great unknown. Hoping for the best in an increasingly dangerous world, while trying to come to terms with Eep (Emma Stone) and Guy’s (Ryan Reynolds) budding romance, Grug stumbles upon a secluded Eden of plenty, containing everything that they have been seeking. However, there is a catch. This verdant heaven on Earth is already occupied by the significantly more evolved Bettermans: Phil, Hope, and their daughter, Dawn (Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran). Now, as tensions boil over between the antagonistic clans, a new menace threatens the future of both families. Can the Croods and the Bettermans put aside their differences to fight the common enemy, and live to tell the tale?
The Little Things
Rated R for violent/ disturbing images, language and full nudity
In this film directed by John Lee Hancock, Deke (Denzel Washington), a burnt-out Kern County, California deputy sheriff teams up with Baxter (Rami Malek), a crack detective, to nab a serial killer. Deke's nose for the "little things" proves eerily accurate, but his willingness to circumvent the rules embroils Baxter in a soul-shattering dilemma. Meanwhile, Deke must wrestle with a dark secret from his past.
News of the World
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, thematic material and some language
In this highly acclaimed shot-in-New Mexico western from director Paul Greengrass, Tom Hanks stars as Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of three wars. Set five years after the Civil War, Capt. Kidd now moves from town to town as a non-fiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds, devastating catastrophes, and gripping adventures from the far reaches of the globe. On the plains of Texas, he crosses paths with Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Johanna, hostile to a world she's never experienced, is being returned to her biological aunt and uncle against her will. Kidd agrees to deliver the child where the law says she belongs. As they travel hundreds of miles into the unforgiving wilderness, the two will face tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces as they search for a place that either can call home.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Rated PG for some violence, action and thematic elements
Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned, and it's up to a lone warrior to track down the last dragon and stop the Druun for good. This Disney animated film features the voice talents of Kelly Matrie Tran, Awkwafina, Daniel Day Kim, and Sandra Oh.
Tom and Jerry
Rated PG for cartoon violence, rude humor and brief language
This modern adaptation of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry. This will be the first Tom and Jerry feature film to be made without the original creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera who died in 2001 and 2006. Directed by Tim Story, it features the voice talents of Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, and Ken Jeong.
Special event: Art and Activism at the Taos Center for the Arts’ Big Screen @ Home
The Taos Center for the Arts is featuring a special series of films and online presentations about “Art and Activism,” according to TCA Director Colette LaBouff.
The Paseo Project has been bringing art to the streets since 2014 and is now looking forward to bringing art directly to the Taos community in the safety and comfort of home. From now until March 14, 2021, the TCA will offer three films curated by The Paseo Project:
“Aggie,” 2020. Directed by Catherine Gund, looks at activism from the perspective of benefactor. This film is available to rent for $3.99 from Amazon. It is also available of rent from Apple TV /iTunes and YouTube.
• “Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly,” 2019. Directed by Cheryl Haines, creates a platform for the voices of others, while speaking to political dissonance within his homeland of China. This film is a $2.99 rental through Amazon. It is also available from Apple TV/ iTunes.
• “Lemebel,” 2019. Directed by Joanna Reposi, a queer artists speaks to personal homophobia within Latin America. “Lemebel” is a $10 rental for seven days.
Also showing in the Big Screen @ Home series
Ticket $12 three-day rental now through April 5
In this film by Elizabeth Lo, we follow a trio of canine outcasts as they roam the streets of Istanbul, their lives intersecting as each of them forms intimate bonds with a group of young Syrians who share the streets with them.
Through their eyes and ears of these three dogs, we are shown an intimate portrait of the life of a city and its people. Whether leading us into bustling streets or decrepit ruins, the gaze of these strays acts as a window into the overlooked corners of society: women in loveless marriages, protesters without arms, refugees without sanctuary. Through this unfamiliar gaze, STRAY explores what it means to live as a being without status or security.
Also available for rental in the series are “Two of Us,” “You Will Die at Twenty,” and What Happened Was …” Be sure and also visit the website for the film fans discussion Sunday (March 7) at 4 p.m. of “You Will Die at Twenty.”
The full film schedule, and directions on how to stream, are on TCA’s website at tcataos.org.