“Nomadland” follows a pensive woman named Fern (Frances McDormand) as she wanders across the western United States.

Fern isn’t alone. She occasionally connects with a loose community of fellow nomads–folks who choose to live out of vans and small campers, traveling from spot to to spot and picking up occasional odd jobs to fund their expeditions.

I’ve never seen anything quite like “Nomadland.” It initially looks and feels simple, but as the film plays out you sense the care that went into every shot, every edit, and every sparse musical cue.

Layered over this is cinematography that captures the exceptional breadth of the country as a whole as well as the small details within Fern’s van. Watching McDormand in these dueling spaces–some huge and others cloistered–produces an expansion and contraction that propels the film. What’s notable is that this big-to-small-and-back-again flow is the film’s catalyst; there’s no definitive narrative to speak of beyond Fern’s commitment to her nomadic existence.