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Nomadland Analysis: Themes of Community & Isolation

The Who & The What #004


Nomadland Analysis: Themes of Community & Isolation

Watch the video essay above for my Nomadland analysis, which explores themes of community & isolation.

The movie, directed by Chloé Zhao, is based on a non-fiction book by journalist Jessica Bruder.

It tells the story of a woman in her sixties, Fern, who loses everything in the Great Recession of 2008 and becomes a van-dwelling nomad.

nomadland explained fern and dave

After recently losing her husband, Fern’s town is immediately dispanded when the local gypsum plant is forced to close.

This sets the thematic tone for the rest of the film, as a state of isolation has been thrust upon Fern due to the loss of her community.

My analysis focuses on Fern’s character development and highlights how her behaviour and choices embody a conflict between community and isolation.

I also explain how Fern’s van represents the duality between independence and community and how her existence within it is loaded with a sense of optimism.

Nomadland explained Fern walking

Before she embarks on her journey, Fern takes at a local Amazon warehouse. the portrayal of the factory perfectly communicates its essence as a faceless corporation. This has come to define the modern economic era in the West, an environment that has literally swallowed the community that Fern lived in. 

However, Zhao expresses the triumph of human connection through its employees, which again harks back to the script’s thematic balance.


The video essay goes even further into the binary spectrum of isolation and community, explored through Fern’s interactions with those she meets along the road.  

This poses an interesting consideration of whether Fern’s enthusiasm for isolation is a defence mechanism in response to her recent trauma, which is a question that Zhao skilfully manipulates throughout the story.

Ultimately, the video essay contains shrewd analysis and a detailed account of Fern’s character development throughout the movie.

nomadland explained sunset van

If you want to see a Nomadland analysis by a professional screenplay consultant, this video essay is a must-watch.

Learn how the story’s theme is interwoven through the primary characters and gain a deeper understanding of the screenwriting craft. 

To check out the rest of my video essay series, click the button below.

Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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