Though I really wanted to love it, I was left a bit unsettled.
As the film ended, Monica looked at me and asked, “What did you think?” I paused, then quietly responded, “I’m not sure.”
Fortunately, I would go watch any movie where Frances McDormand did little more than find part-time work in an Amazon factory and scrubbing toilets in national parks. Darn good thing, as that is what you see her doing to support herself as she searches for life’s meaning.
Hit by the recession of 2011, Fern, Ms. McDormand, loses everything when Empire, Nevada, her hometown, shuts down. A middle-aged widow with no children, she packs a few things and hits the road in her van named Vanguard.
Her journey through the American west will remind you of settlers on the wagon trains in the 19th century. Though the film’s weakness deals with many scenes where Fern is alone contemplating life’s meaning, it is saved with her interaction with other road travelers.
Many of these individuals are non-actors using their real names, so let me begin with Linda May and Swankie. While Ms. May serves as Fern’s emotional crutch in a confusing world, Swankie is glorious as a dedicated kayaker with less than a year to live. She embraces nature to keep a smile on her lovely face as the end nears.
David Straithairn plays—surprise—Dave, a soft spoken traveler who returns home to reconnect with his family. Clearly attracted to each other, Fern joins him, only to hit the road in the middle of the night. She is searching for something in the distance.
The movie, written, edited and directed by Chloe Zhao, is based on a book by Jessica Bruder. Ms. McDormand follows her Oscar winning roles in “Fargo” (1996) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) playing a woman trying to find a path to rediscover herself.
Her role as Fern could land her another nomination, so that is reason enough to keep Nomadland on your to-do list. Also keep in mind that Director Zhao focuses her camera on some of the American west’s most enchanting landscape.
This film teaches you that you never say goodbye when leaving anyone. Just remember to say, “See you down the road.”