The landscapes of Badlands National Park become a place to get both lost and found in this scene from “Nomadland.”
Frances McDormand plays Fern, a woman who sets out for a life on the road when her economic situation becomes dire during the recession. She gets work in the Badlands of South Dakota and explores the park in this sequence that features a number of nonprofessional actors, along with the veteran performer David Strathairn.
Narrating the scene, the director Chloé Zhao discusses her work to make these moments in the park feel improvised, even though they were written and carefully staged. Fern does have time to wander though, and Zhao says that the ways McDormand moves and explores in the scene remind her of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. We see a little brightness in her discoveries, but the enjoyment is still bittersweet.
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