By María Estévez, MWN
If there is one woman who continues to compel us in roles of the American working class, it would be, without a doubt, Frances McDormand. A fellow journalist called her films emblematic just like Marlboro Red Label ads, if they were still allowed. One of her most recent works, with which she already won in Venice and Toronto as producer and protagonist, is called “Nomadland.” This movie that narrates the touching story of Fern is also positioned as a favorite for this year’s Oscars.
“As a producer, the most important thing I did was read Jessica Bruder’s book and discover Chloé Zhao,” McDormand told Metro. “That was my timing to bring this story to the movies. I connected the dots and everything went smoothly. I was not going to star in “Nomadland,” Linda Mae was going to be the lead actress, but once I decided to play Fern, I had to leave my role as producer to fully get into the character.”
Across the Unites States, there is a hidden population of people who live on the road, in train stations, in open spaces. Three million are moving from one place to another in mobile homes, and 90 percent of them are over 55 years old. One of those nomads is Fern, whose name arises from a vascular plant without seeds or flowers and perfectly portrays the protagonist of this lyrical narrative by Zhao.
“During the time we were on the road I discovered that there are two types of people: real nomads who belong there, even though they have spent 40 years in a house. And others, who use the road and that lifestyle to save after the 2008 crisis and want to have a home again,” Zhao said.
In her films, like “The Rider” and “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” Chloé Zhao uses the landscape as an element to anchor the audience, to locate the temporality of her emotions.
“Growing up in cities, I have felt deprived of nature and now, at my age, I realize that I need it. When you live in a car, you are exposed to nature whether you like it or not. I feel that nature forces you to be humble and puts everything that happens in your life in perspective. We wanted to tell that aspect of the story and do it at the right time of year in each landscape,” the director revealed.
Shooting “Nomadland” did not take the traditional two months. The crew had to travel to five different states for more than four months.
“When I did “Three Billboards” [ Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017], a critic wrote that my face was like visiting a National Park. I loved it. There is something about an unaltered aged face that puts the landscape in perspective and makes you identify with it,” Frances stated. “As I have grown older, I have discovered that, as an actress, I must be in the right environment. The environment to which my cellular structure belongs. It is not concrete and brick, but dust. Chloe has a certain connection with the cycle of human life and the exploration of a group of nomadic elders is also part of the landscape.”
The actress also explained that despite assimilating into each character played throughout her 38-year career, Fern demanded much more of her. “This film forced me to live in the present,” and admit that “I was her in every situation.”
“Chloe and I created Fern’s base together and used it as a trampoline on each of her trips. I am like her, I come from the same place. The big difference between my life and Fern’s is that I was able to leave the American rural working class I was born into at 17 and never came back, but she couldn’t. Her decision to marry determines 45 years of her life and the needle that unites us with Fern and me does not emerge until she turns 61 and begins her journey. What I started at 17, she began at 61.”
Regarding the awards, Frances said that she is happy with the public’s response.
“I’m very happy that the film has been accepted at so many festivals and that we have won in Venice and Toronto. But what we really want is for a lot of people to watch it,” she concluded.
“Nomadland” is playing now in select IMAX theaters and will be available to stream on Hulu Feb. 19.