“No, I’m not homeless. I’m just houseless”: On Nomadland
By: Nick Thompson
This week Nomadland won two awards including best drama and director for Chloé Zhao’s adaptation of Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book of the same title. Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color to win this top award.
Nomadland exists at the intersection of concepts of freedom and exploitation. On the one hand, the film tells the story of the lifelong connection formed between seasonal and contract workers at Amazon distribution centers and state parks across the U.S. These workers, and some retirees, traverse the country in search of their version of the American dream while being paid substandard pay in often dangerous conditions.
But the film also tells the story of one woman’s experience after the fall of company towns and the rise of the gig economy.
At its core, Nomadland is a story of unpredictable futures, which oftentimes leads to housing instability. We see this multiple times throughout the film, including just how dangerous living in a van can be in subfreezing temperatures or the importance of being able to afford vehicle repairs when the vehicle is also a home. Or lastly, the all-famous “knock” of someone telling you that you can’t sleep here is all too familiar for many, many folks across the country.
Frances McDormand gives the audience a fabulous performance and perspective on this aspect of American nomads.
There are an estimated 3 million people in the United States living nomadic lives, though it is unknown how many have all the resources necessary to do so safely and/or would continue nomadic life if able to afford traditional housing with the opportunity of gainful employment.