Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Nomadland (2021)

© Searchlight Pictures

Nomadland  – Film Review

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells

Director: Chloé Zhao

Synopsis: After the death of her husband and the loss of her job, a woman purchases a van to live as a modern day nomad…

Review: Home, is where the heart is. Yet, for each and every one of us, this is a word that can mean many different things. For some, it could be that place you grew up, or a place that’s significant in your lives, or it could be where a person’s family resides. No matter what this word may mean to each and every one of us, there’s a moment early on in this beautiful film from director Chloe Zhao that perfectly captures the essence of this story. As a character is talking with Fern (McDormand) about a tattoo she has:”Home, is it just a word? Or is it something you carry within you?” With just this one simple song lyric, from “Home is a Question Mark” by The Smiths, it encapsulates the heart that is beating at the centre of the film.

Years prior to the events of the film, Fern lived and worked in Empire, Nevada, with her husband. They both had jobs working in a US Gypsum plant, and it’s immediately apparent that these were joyful years for Fern. Yet, times have sadly changed. As a result of the Great Recession of 2008, the plant that was essentially the glue that held together Empire’s economy closed, and Fern has lost her job. But the most devastatingly blow of all, is the death of her husband. Following the collapse of the town’s economy, Empire has become a ghost town and all of the residents have since moved on. With all the attachments she once had to Empire now gone, she sells most of her belongings and purchases a van and starts a new life for herself as a modern day nomad roaming the heart of the American West, taking seasonal work wherever she can find it.

Adapted from the non-fiction novel Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, the premise of the film is simple, but sometimes there is beauty in the simplicity of life, and the film celebrates this. Thanks to the absolutely stunning cinematography from Joshua James Richards, the film shines a light on a way of life that many will no doubt be extremely unfamiliar with. There will be many who are no doubt accustomed to the metropolitan lifestyle of a city that never sleeps. The bright lights and the constant noise of the urban metropolis. A world where chatter is constant, life is almost always continually moving. There is none of that in this nomad lifestyle, just the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of the open road. Although such a lifestyle does come with its challenges, most notably the isolation.

It’s in no small part down to the extraordinary performance of Frances McDormand that pulls you into this story. Having won an Oscar a few years for her portrayal as a fierce and pissed off mother on the search for justice in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, this is a very different kind of role for the veteran actor. It’s much more withdrawn and subdued, and yet like the great actor she is, McDormand rises to the challenge in spectacular fashion. Aside from McDormand’s wonderful work, and an equally sincere performance from David Strathairn, as Dave, a fellow nomad who strikes up a close friendship with Fern. The rest of the film’s cast consists of real life nomads, and what could have been a somewhat risky move, instead turns out to be a masterstroke by Zhao. By choosing to have real life nomads, most of whom are portraying a fictionalised version of themselves, it lends an air of authenticity to the events that are being depicted on screen, which consequently helps you to sympathise with the people in this community, and the lives they lead.

The story does sometimes feels a bit aimless, and the pacing does stutter in one or two places. Yet, there’s a touching moment of poignancy throughout the film, that signifies the importance of remembering someone. An importance which is especially emotionally resonant for a community that could feel like it has been left behind by our modern day Capitalist society. In a similar vein to The Smiths lyric that is mentioned at the beginning, there’s another quote that feels especially emotionally resonant. “what’s remembered, lives.” Due to these emotionally trying times that we’re living in, where lots of people may have been feeling isolated and lonely, there’s a lot can be learned in being kind to one another, especially for those who may have a different lifestyle than what most people do.

Poignant and quietly moving, with a subdued but touching leading performance from McDormand, Nomadland is an emotional and celebratory study at an underrepresented way of life.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Legendary

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Film Review

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi

Directors: Michael Dougherty

Synopsis: Since the emergence of Godzilla, the monster organisation Monarch has uncovered several other titans hidden in locations around the world, and a battle ensues between man and titan for global supremacy…

Review: It was the major aspect of 2014’s Godzilla that left hardcore fans of the King of the Kaiju so disappointed. Namely that for a film called Godzilla, he was but a minor spectator for the most part. Though when he did atomically roar his way into the proceedings, it was marvellous movie Monster magic. Hence, for the third film in the MonsterVerse, after a trip to Skull Island, the King is back and there are quite a few new monsters who are challenging for his throne.

In the aftermath of the Godzilla VS MUTO battle that laid waste to San Francisco, humanity has found themselves recovering from the devastation and preparing themselves for the eventuality of Godzilla resurfacing. We see this primarily through the perspective of the Russell family, with Emma ( Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Brown), who’s torn between her mum and her father (Chandler). Simultaneously, the Monster organisation Monarch, has been working to discover the locations of other gargantuan monsters that are in hidden locations on the planet, posing the very real risk of these titans being unleashed upon our world.

Definitely not a fan of the man upstairs it would seem…

As entertaining as it would be to just watch two uninterrupted hours of Godzilla scrapping it out with other monsters, a core component of these monsters movies is the accompanying human element. The previous film had a compelling human element that started off brightly, but was ultimately horrendously squandered. Here there is potential to recapture that promise, but in spite of a staggeringly large collection of human characters, very few really stand out. Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison and the emotion that her family is dealing with shows the most intrigue, and the ever reliable Charles Dance delivers some compelling moments. Yet for the most part, all these characters are basically just exposition mouthpieces to move the story along.

Though admittedly they are the secondary characters, it would have helped enormously if the script could have given these actors more, and in some cases better material to work with. The script leaves an awful lot to be desired as there’s no development on the vast majority of them, and nearly all of the attempts to cracks some jokes rarely get the laughter muscles moving. The bigger problem though is that there are far too many characters all vying for screen time, and it really bogs down the over-arching story, which could definitely have done with some refining.

However, the big selling point of these films is the throw-downs between Godzilla and the other titans. Director Michael Dougherty ensures that anyone who was left frustrated by the lack of Godzilla will not be disappointed this time around. These scenes are what these films are really about, giant monster mayhem, and it’s all edge-of-your-seat stuff. The epic scraps especially between Godzilla and his fellow titans are edge-of-your seat entertainment.  The design and CGI for these monsters is fantastic, and King Ghidorah makes for an extremely compelling villain.

Yet, in spite of the three films that the MonsterVerse has provided us, it simply hasn’t quite managed to capture that perfect balance between crafting compelling human characters, and the enthralling movie monster carnage. Though it definitely has, for the most part, got the latter right so far. It’s clear from what we have seen that all of the elements of the perfect monster movie are there within their reach. With the fourth film set to stomp onto the big screen, one can hope they can perfect that formula and unleash the mother of monster movies that pleases man and titan alike.

The scraps between Godzilla and his fellow monsters are glorious, but the film is hampered by mostly bland human characters and a shaky script that prevent this monster melee from soaring to great heights.