Chloé Zhao’s acclaimed film “Nomadland,” a road drama that’s expected to be a major awards player, has modified its release plan due to the pandemic.
The movie — starring Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves her small town to travel the American west — will debut in select Imax venues on Jan. 29 before opening in traditional theaters and drive-in locations on Feb. 19. On the same day as its wide release in February, “Nomadland” will premiere on Hulu.
Searchlight Pictures, the Disney-owned specialty studio, is distributing the film and plans to premiere it internationally throughout the spring (pandemic permitting) starting on March 4.
Prior to its theatrical rollout, “Nomadland” made rounds on the festival circuit, winning top prizes at Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival. It also landed on many critics’ best of the year lists, including Variety’s Peter Debruge. In his review, Debruge called the film an “ode to American independence.”
“If road movies have an intrinsic weakness, it’s the episodic nature of their narratives, but ‘Nomadland’ solves that beautifully, creating a pattern in which the path is more circular than linear, and impactful characters come back around to more deeply enrich Fern’s journey,” he wrote.
Based on Jessica Bruder’s book of the same name, the film is set after the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, with McDormand’s character Fern exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. She lost everything in the Great Recession and seeks the wisdom and hospitality of real-life nomads in the U.S. David Strathairn co-stars along with real-life nomads Linda May, Charlene Swankie and Bob Wells.
“Nomadland” is Zhao’s third feature, having previously directed 2015’s “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” and 2017’s “The Rider.” Up next, she’s directing Marvel’s “Eternals,” due in theaters later in 2021.