There are people living on the margins of society, struggling in reality we choose to ignore whenever it stares us in the face. I mean the people in our everyday lives that we want to pretend aren’t there. The person begging for change. The addict struggling to stand up. A driver delivering our food or packages or anything else that can be bought with the littlest of effort. The flip side of any kind of prosperity we can imagine. The backs on which the American dream is made possible.
There is a certain discourse about Nomadland I find problematic. Many talk about it being depressing. They use the term pejoratively. Upset that any kind of harsh reality can be sprinkled into their entertainment. There is an expectation that entertainment must be mindless and/or uplifting, and anything that deviates from those standards requires a level of effort that most can’t bare. The most common justification I see is that they are already exposed to so many depressing things in everyday life and entertainment is supposed to act as an escape. But is that really true? Does the average person watch the local news and think about the socioeconomic issues that perpetuate violence and crime, or do they take it in like a voyeur, watching but glad to be on the sidelines? Does the average person watch a violent TV show or movie and get upset when characters without names are prey to gory violence or do they just ignore depressing actions when meted out against people they don’t care about? We accept things that are depressing if it’s fed to us in the guise of hyper-action or personified in others we never see in our daily lives.
Nomadland isn’t the best movie ever made, but it’s certainly worthy of the awards it’s received. There is something poetic and profoundly human about confronting a world where someone’s idyllic existence has been torn apart. That people take to the road, literally and figuratively, by choice or out of necessity, to find their place, their tribe, and just plain survive within their skin. I find it depressing that people think the movie is depressing.