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How I Found Nomadland in Cornwall

This is one piece in a collection of 10 film reviews submitted by this year’s New Wave Jury members at Cornwall Film Festival 2021. The collection tackles recent films that stood out as radical works of filmmaking. You can read the other reviews here.

Upon reflecting on the films I’ve watched this year, I was surprised to realise how few of them were 2021 releases. Perhaps Cornwall's selection of cinemas aren’t showing the films I want to watch - sorry Newlyn, you are just too far away for me. Nevertheless, there were a few that I bothered to make an effort to go and see including Nomadland (2020).

Through its protagonist, Fern, the film aims to give voice to real people who have either been exiled by American society or have chosen to live outside of it. As a result, both Fern and the majority of the characters she meets live in vans. What immediately struck me after watching Nomadland was the confidence of its director behind the camera. Chloé Zhao does a seamless job of blending fact with fiction and I’m excited to see her do more of this unique hybrid cinema.

Although I initially enjoyed it, it was quite some time before I realised just how important this film is, with this gradual realisation forming as a result of my personal, evolving relationship with life in Cornwall. For me, Nomadland not only channeled the preconception of what it means to live in a van but also an ever-growing frustration with the systems we occupy.

Living in Cornwall, I know many people who live in their vehicles not out of choice but as a result of the extreme housing crisis present here. Instead of a trendy hashtag, it’s an all too common consequence of an unfair system built to make rich people richer and poor people poorer. The majority of available jobs only pay enough to meet the average costs of living. Consequently, people too often find themselves stuck, simply not making enough money to save. It’s a problem that desperately needs to change and I was glad to see a film that challenged these ideas succeed both financially and critically.

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