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Neither Nomadland nor Mangrove are set right now, or even just before right now, in 2019, which is where I’ve mentally sorted any otherwise-very-contemporary stories that, naturally, do not feature multiple characters wearing masks and keeping their distance. Nomadland is specifically set during an election year that now feels like the distant past, taking place mostly over the course of 2012. Mangrove is a real-life courtroom drama that takes place in 1970. Yet–big sigh, deep breath, and then maybe another sigh–both of these New York Film Festival entries are plenty appropriate for our current moment, in ways that alternately seem complementary and diametrically opposed. Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is all about our old friend “economic anxiety,” albeit treated with unusual gentleness, while Steve McQueen’s Mangrove is about the kind of racist, violent police harassment that has inspired countless protests in 2020. Both of them have plenty of opportunities to come across as hamfisted in one way or another, and both of them succeed in ways that are somehow both straightforward and oddly miraculous.
Continue reading NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #2: Mangrove and Nomadland