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Monday April 12th 2021

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Movie Corner: Unhoused

By HOWARD MCQUITTER II

Howard McQuitter II

Adjust your eyes when you see director Chloe Zhao’s superb road film Nomadland because it has a feel of a documentary and a feel of an arthouse film, yet it’s a true narrative. The principal star is Fern, played by Frances McDormand, who has recently lost her husband; and the local gypsum and sheetrock factory in Empire, Nevada where she worked, closed shop. The town just disappears, even the zip code doesn’t show up on the map.

Fern decides she will not stay in Empire so she packs up some small possessions and puts them in her beat-up van and takes off on the road. But before she hits the road the townspeople offer her help, even places to stay. She smiles and quietly refuses the offers. What we learn early is Fern is fiercely independent and refuses any help from churches, social services, and charity.

Now she’s a nomad traveling from one nomad community to another meeting various people with circumstances similar to hers, becoming kicked out or pushed out by corporate America. Surely this nomad feeling is quite evident today with COVID-19, massive unemployment and racial tensions swirling around us like a gale.

Everybody she meets is friendly, leaving her with good feelings without getting too attached with anyone. Nonetheless, there are many heartwarming stories others share with her. On the way she picks up odd jobs, including some work at Amazon. She stops to visit her sister in California, someone who understands her probably better than anyone else. During her road trip she meets David (David Strathairn) who takes a liking to her and invites her to visit him at his son’s house. He offers her the guest house to stay in as long she wants, but she only stays for a few days. Early in the film she tells her neighbors she’s not “homeless” but “houseless”. What a outstanding road movie with Frances McDormand, an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Cast: Frances McDormand (Fern), David Strathairn (David), Swankie (Swankie), Bob Wells (Bob), Angela Reyes (Angela), Carl R. Hughes (Carl), Douglas G. Soul (Doug), Ryan Aquino (Ryan).

Director: Chloe Zhao. Running time: 108 minutes

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