Nomadland: A Review

This Blog is a review of the above named movie. There is a piece of writing that I am currently struggling to thoroughly unravel and find the blog’s tap root. I offer the review of Nomadland as a way to break ground. The aim, find a way to engage with an idea that adds to the psychological plethora I have been toiling with for the past few weeks. I say this as much to myself as I do to you, I will get there!

Dawn Dance
I was not enthused to watch Nomadland. Asked by my brother-in-law KW to attend a weekend afternoon’s showing at The Westdale a small independent Cinema in Hamilton, Ontario. I held misgivings about what I was invited to see. I felt confused as I watched Fern (Frances McDormand) travel North America in her van. We join her, at the start of the film, in a packing plant for Amazon. Fern’s life does not resemble mine in many ways. Single, White, no dependents, a retiree, a home on the road, no family or discernible sense of belonging. Fern dances a line. Watching her ‘slow shoe shuffle’ is what begins to draw me in.

Slow Ride
I spent a few moments discussing the movie with my friend Anne Willoughby. Who helped me fashion a few of my thoughts that this piece of writing springs from. The movie feels like a meditation on modern living. Asking questions about the pasts we have forgotten or sailed past. Chasing after the next big shiny offering. Pretending to give us chance to step outside of the speed of time passing so quickly. I often take a look around me whilst watching a movie. To note art’s impact on others. Fern’s demographic looked on, unaware of my watching of them, watching her.

Sense From This
Nomadland is beautifully shot. The sense of space, peace, human loss, tragedy and connection are all minced together within an unfamiliar story arc. The movie invites us to imagine a life on the road. What would it be like meeting people in chance encounters and wondering about them and about ourselves. The sparseness of Fern’s experience with the landscape, appears cold, beyond touch, are somehow vaguely familiar. A reminder of the distance we also have traversed with the pandemic. Just like us, Fern is not finding a happy median in which to settle down inside of and curl up and go to sleep. No, life is much more complex and rich when shaken as hers has been. As ours continually are being. When I think about Nomadland a little more, I relate to a life outside of the ordinary. The movie does not offer us a resolve of the wanderlust or the need to settle and peer bond. There is only the vastness of space, a pressing need to experience life and make some sense out of existence.

Nearly
What Anne helped me realise is that we are all in many ways struggling with self concepts given to us from family, life scripts that we discern are either worth having or spilling away from, and societal ideas of how we ought to behave. With Fern, she has found a way to live her own life, in as honest and as complex a way as she finds fitting. One moment of the film shreds my understanding. The unquestioning of what I have held up as a life goal. That of settling. Finding a place, a person, an experience that one calls mine, ours and is home. Fern veers near experiences that could have been capable of containing, constraining or holding her. Her Sister, the friend, her old home with the distant hills. Yet all were of naught compared to the unknown of the open road and the next experience.

Mountainous

Fluid
If we could remain continually aware or open to the experience of the unknown, being unstuck, unsettled, often with a beginners outlook on life, forgetful of life’s bitterness and disappointments, we would have the potential to be as flexible, as released as Fern. The sense of freedom could be fear provoking. Stalling many from peering over the horizon to what is to happen in the beyond. Fern was willing to make what she could out of her experience of life on the road. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and The Famished Road by Ben Okri, offer a loose frame for me to unpack Fern’s opening up to the encounters a Nomadic life bring.

Memories
I appreciate the movie’s sparseness. The harsh reality of not knowing what tomorrow may deliver, the random encounters the land showers her with, and the friends and acquaintances that are hewn from the occasional meetings and separations travel can present a lone nomad with. I initially thought the movie was going to be a total waste of time. I am glad that my initial ideas were thoroughly uprooted and tossed! I sat engaged with a simple premise yet challenging perspective to fully appreciate. Nothing is pre-determined. We are all making it up as we go along and very little can be controlled. Nomadland will be a film that stays lodged in my memory as a gentle reminder of firsts – A courageous move to Canada during a Pandemic by my family and I, connecting with a vibrant community of Black Mental Health practitioners in Ontario, Canada, experiencing snow fall, like I was lost in the mountains. To be experienced next for us is, a North American Halloween, Winter, Thanks Giving, and New Years.

An Open Road: Fall

Everywhere
The last line of the movie the one that haunts me still, is an interpretation of Maya Angelou’s famous quote ‘If you are from no where you belong everywhere’. It is the truth, the honesty and the realness of the quote, Maya’s wisdom, Fern’s onwards journey and the road we are all now on. With ever present threats of new world crises. All that we are, ultimately, are our experiences…

Resources
Jason Wilson speaks at length with Joe Rogan on his podcast about growing up. Learning how to be a man who is able to express and talk about his feelings and not cower from them no matter how frightening or terrific they may be. Jason talks about his new book Battle Cry and the journey within, we all could take.
The Trailer for Nomadland offers a brief window into Fern’s simple and yet complicated life.
Sharing Brené Brown’s interviews with her guests is a wonderful interpretive experience for me. Both Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us provide chance to listen to leaders who engage in thought that shapes and change worlds. Amy Cuddy coined the phrase Pandemic Flux Syndrome which I feel fits with some of what Nomadland explodes.
I read Ryan Holiday’s ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ a few years ago. I was facing an ongoing set of challenges both professionally and personally. Listening to Tim Ferris go in deep with Ryan on his podcast, I picked up on the strongly suggested idea that I read his work on living stoically. The Book has helped to make meaning from misadventure.
Joe Rogan Experience with Jason Wilson Battle Cry
Nomadland Trailer
Brené Brown with Amy Cuddy on Dare to Lead Podcast
Ryan Holiday 4000 mile Road Trip

Images
Cover photo City by Night by Abdullah Konte on Unsplash
Open Road photo by Marcelo Quinan on Unsplash
Road and Mountains photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash
Fall leaves photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Street Art - Poetry

Falling

It’s rare for me to hear something that stops me dead in my tracks and makes me fall as if through space wondering what wonderment is this? Prepare yourselves, this is another musically inspired post. Join me as I revel…

Knocked Out
Montara by Bobby Hutcherson was like that, when I first heard the track back in the early 90’s visiting my sister in Stoke Newington listening to Jazz FM. I thought about the magic of music. Bobby transported me to a new dynamic of experiencing the world. His playing of the vibes opened a portal to a different time, place and sensibility about music.

I had a similar experience on hearing FTB by Robert Glasper in 2008, and then Gretchen Parlato’s Weak in 2015. Then came Warren Wolf’s Knocks Me Off My Feet released in 2016, but heard in 2019. I know this song. It has belonged to Stevie Wonder for years. What Warren is able to do is make the song his. Yes he is a talented jazz percussionist. Yes he plays the vibraphone like a pianist with all the musical dexterity and complexity that has left me spell bound but the *laterality of his thinking and then playing of this version of Knocks Me – is mesmerising.

Walking into Tower records in the late 90’s and hearing Bobbi Humphrey’s Satin Doll Album. Being assuaged into another late night musical crawl was the ultimate falling experience. I had never heard a *flautist do what Bobbi did on this album. I bought it without hesitation and have savoured her playing ever since. With the Mizell Brothers doing what they did best, producing fresh nuanced music to new audiences.

Visibility
But his rendition of Knocks Me Off My Feet has had me singing out loud (in the comfort of solitude in the car and when no one is at home. I was not gifted with a great singing voice).

Warren’s version – takes you into the joy of falling, and falling, and falling in love. Within that happy play of love. It is a joy to behold. Like being held in the rapture of someone else’s perfection. Spellbinding. His art is to make a song his and yet remain recognisable. It is the magic of Warren’s vision and of the accompanying musicians who allow the play of the vibraphone to musically enthrall and take you to the zenith of falling or being knocked off your feet.

Re-Done
Montara by Bobby Hutcherson is universally held as a great, no, a fantastic piece of jazz music. It broke records and has been highly sought after. The Roots did a great rendition of Montara on the New Groove Album with the lyric Do What You Want, Do What You Like, Do What You Feel/Do What you Need. I loved this version for as long as I can remember with those late night conversations in my mid 20’s, late night drives, late night studies it was the only version of the classic I could readily access.

Huff and Puff
Then along came Warren Wolf. Blowing everything even the original away, with his version of Montara. Why? Bobby made it his! It is his. The Roots made it theirs. It was theirs. Wolf reinvented Mandala and brought it full force into the 21st century. It’s like what Christian Scott did for Isadora, Robert Glasper has done with the piano and with his experiment experiences, Gretchen Parlato reworked SWV’s Weak up to and what Warren has done with this age old classic.

CTA
Compare contrast congratulate and then comment below. There are few that have been able to do re evolution better. Warren Wolf is someone to look out for.

The poem at the end of I Stand Alone by Robert Glasper is worthy of repeating often. Primarily because the poet speaks about there being multiple changes with each re-interpretation, re-evolving not just copying mindlessly. Suggesting that each go round takes us – musician and listener – to a different newer higher level.