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Nomadland, a poignant portrait of aging, wins at Academy Awards
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Nomadland, a poignant portrait of aging, wins at Academy Awards

It’s rare to find a movie that stars a woman over 50, and even rarer for such a film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. 

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland tells the story of a woman named Fern whose husband dies just after the only industry in their hometown of Empire, Nevada closes down. She is left not homeless but “houseless,” as she sells her possessions, buys a van, and hits the road.

She drives around the American West and finds work intermittently at an Amazon supply center, a campground, a restaurant, and a sugar beet processing plant. She meets other nomads her age, and discovers a whole demographic of other Americans who lost their savings during the Great Recession and ended up having to forgo some of the comforts they enjoyed for much of their adulthood. “Retirement” is not an option. 

As hard as it can be to navigate health, family and financial issues on the road, some find there is much to love about this way of life—even though for many it is a necessity more than a choice. One of the characters reflects that there are “no goodbyes”—every parting is just a “see you down the road.” While there are bouts of loneliness, the film’s characters also find a rich community among the other ‘nomads’ they encounter. 

With ‘traditional’ retirement getting more challenging for many Americans to pull off, Nomadland calls attention to the complexities of aging at an important time.

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