The drama “Nomadland” and its director Chloé Zhao (41) won three Oscars (film, director and leading actress) at the 2021 Academy Awards, which were significantly reduced due to Corona. Somehow this unintentionally intimate ceremony fit with the general mood of the film, which is finally celebrating its free TV premiere around three years after its theatrical release. However, he does this at an ungodly hour, on the night from Friday (March 29) to Saturday at 1:40 a.m. on ZDF. But it’s worth staying awake: The sensitive film with an outstanding Frances McDormand (66) has a hopeful and melancholic message – according to the eye of the beholder.

Within a short time, Fern (McDormand) loses both her job in the abandoned mining town of Empire, Nevada, and her husband. In short: everything that was supposedly worth settling down for was taken away from her. So the resolute Fern decides to sell most of her belongings, buy a minibus and travel through the vastness of the USA as a modern nomad. Always looking for the next mini-job to somehow stay afloat, she makes a few fleeting acquaintances that leave a lasting impression.

Fern quickly discovers for herself that life on four wheels is anything but a walk in the park. Whether it’s the pitying and/or derogatory comments from your family and friends, the harsh conditions for seasonal workers, or the freezing temperatures in winter: being at home everywhere and nowhere means you have chosen a life of extremes. Positive and negative, physical and emotional.

“Nomadland” tells a very personal story over its 110-minute running time and does so almost like a documentary. Zhao completely avoids dramaturgically exaggerated moments; many small, sometimes seemingly banal highs and lows determine Fern’s everyday life as a nomad. But if your entire world suddenly revolves around a dilapidated car, a flat tire, a broken engine or a broken plate can lead to the collapse of your fragile new life plan.

Some viewers will perceive “Nomadland” as a deadly sad, depressing film. To others as a hopeful and rousing message. Depending on your own philosophy of life, for some the positive moments outweigh the for others the negative ones. For example, when Fern, shivering in her too-thin blanket, longs for the sunrise in the freezing cold or sweats while doing her business in a bucket. This is countered by powerful scenes like the one in which Fern shares her story with another nomad and he explains to her that from now on a “goodbye” will never be a “farewell” for her – because sooner or later they will meet on the road street again and again.

Security or freedom? Routine or adventure? Both are both desirable and daunting, have advantages and sometimes come at a high price. “Nomadland” shows this duality calmly and decelerated, but probably too sedate for some viewers. A minibus drama is not a narrative Ferrari.

Once again, leading actress Frances McDormand is beyond any doubt. Consequently, she even won two Oscars for “Nomadland”: She triumphed as “Best Actress” in this category for the third time. And because she also co-produced the film, another golden boy followed for her thanks to the “Best Film” vote.

The entire work stands or falls with McDormand. Her acting is as nuanced and unpretentious as the film itself. It can be a mischievous smile here and a worried look there – or both at the same time. “Nomadland” is as much a milieu as it is a character study about the voluntarily and involuntarily forgotten.

With “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand have created a bittersweet film. In a very leisurely manner, he talks about the hardships and philosophical insights that can come with a life as a modern nomad. For example, the most beautiful place on earth is always the one waiting for you around the next bend.