"Nomadland": what can I expect (AVOID SPOILERS, PLEASE)

Is there a plot? The impression I get from reading previews is there is little dialogue. Is it scene after scene of Frances McDormand sitting outside of a trailer staring at scenery?

Is it a “shaky camera” movie?


My opinion (obviously) was that Nomadland is one of the most boring movies I’ve ever seen. The ‘plot’ is that a person, during extraordinary circumstances, found themselves traveling around the country and living out of a van. During this time she meets up with and shares experiences with others going through similar.
Works for about 30 minutes or so. The highlight for me was going into the kitchen about 20 minutes before it ended to start preparing dinner. I suppose others may have found some artistic merit in it.
There is dialog but it’s minimal. Not a ‘shaky’. Nothing wrong with the cinematography (other than boring).

One quick point:

I once lived in my Class A Airstream motorhome, long before the ‘van life’ movement and before Airstreams were so sought after and retro.

And I follow some “van life” content creators’ YouTube channels, including Bob Wells who plays a big role in Nomadland.

To me, the most impactful and provocative part of the movie is a Big Question: are these people choosing freedom, “living their best lives,” and to be admired and supported, or … is this another marginalized segment of society, thrown away by capitalism run amok and making somewhat desperate moves in order to survive in a country that’s left them behind ?

Bob Wells admits that he’s making a “ridiculous amount of money” from the content he creates, and he’s using most of that money to fund a charity that helps out other nomads in need.

But apart from some of these millennials, some of whom are truly making a shit-ton of money as content creators living in vehicles, this is not generally a yuppie dalliance – an alternative lifestyle adopted in order to be fashionable and by an affluent cohort. It’s generally the last resort of people who can’t afford the proverbial American Dream.

So how we should feel about, and what – if anything – we should do about, these nomads is, for me, a question this movie raises.

Many of the content creators portray the whole van life thing as freedom itself – a purely idyllic existence. I appreciate that Nomadland – while not dwelling on it (maybe not even adequately) – showed us another side that isn’t quite so sparkly.

I suppose the “boring” nature of the film is that is does not introduce much in the way of traditional dramatic conflict. There is like one scene with Fern and her suburban family that serves to illustrate her disdain for their lifestyle. But generally it is really just a “days in the life” story of people on the edges of our economic world. I also don’t think it particularly glorifies the lifestyle, rather just illustrates it. But I could see how it would generate appeal to people who are prone to be interested in being a nomad.

The cinematography is a selling point, but again, may not appeal to conventional movie-goers as it is not most peoples idea of “pretty”.

The film is as much about choosing to live alone, minimally tethered to others, as it is about always moving.

Not at all the slam on late-stage capitalism that the Right are overacting as usual against the Oscars for: Amazon complimented for good wages & subsidized camper parking, no hint that she was saddled with crashing medical debt from her husband’s treatment not covered by insurance. My takeaway was the unfortunate coincidence of his death and the death of her one-factory town screwed up her support system during the grieving process, so she took to the road in alienation; only to find a supportive community there. Not at all The Grapes of Wrath for our time. My only criticism: not all but many of the movie’s stopping points for van culture are also full of motorcycling groups in real life. Were they banned during filming to prevent distraction?

I don’t think it’s that black and white. For people who actually live the lifestyle it runs the gamut. I fell into a YouTube rabbit hole one evening watching videos of people who do the nomad lifestyle, explaining their rigs in detail and giving tips, and there are many people who do it who are not economically disadvantaged, they just don’t want to be stuck in one place. People of all ages as well. The movie showed mostly older people of retirement age or close to it, and there are a lot of them, but there are also young people in their 20s living in a van.

The impression I got of the movie was that it was neither trying to highlight some shameful condition of society or glorify it, it was a no-judgement ‘slice of life’ look at the lifestyle. Frances McDormand’s character might have started doing what she did out of necessity, but she had more than one chance to get out of it-- when her friend or romantic partner decided to stay with his son and said she could stay, and I believe her sister offered her a place to stay as well. She just didn’t want to.

I don’t disagree with your basic premise at all, but …

The two cohorts that you and I both identified generally come to the van life thing out of very different circumstances.

It’s a bit like kids who take a gap year between high school and college vs. senior citizens who expatriate to Mexico because they can’t afford a decent standard of living in the US.

The same could be said for the ‘tiny house movement --’ some come to it because of values. Others come to it because of economics.

And I totally agree that it’s not all that black and white, and that the movie did a good job of not taking a hard line on the subject.

But it is an issue that it got me thinking about.

Mrs A and I watched it Friday night and loved it.

If you’re looking for conventional plot build-up and resolution, or some sort of redemption arc, you’ll be disappointed.

And you’ll definitely be disappointed if you’re looking for social commentary or any kind of statement about The American Condition. You can probably find that in there, but it’s not going to hand you anything.

It’s about one character, the choices she’s made, the people she meets and how they interact, and how she grows and changes over the course of a year or two. That’s it. But she’s an amazing character, played by an incredible actor, and the film is superbly well made.

True, Francis McDormand was great as usual, bringing some of the orneriness from Three Billboards… But I wondered what Mary McDonnell would have done with the character: more vulnerability, and she’d had such good chemistry with David Strathairn years ago in Passion Fish. (maybe that’s the telltale sign of a less than engrossing film: we at least spend our viewing time dissecting and reassembling)

It’s not a shaky camera movie. It is sad, inspiring, sweet, frustrating, lonely.
Don’t expect a strong plot or clear ending. But there are a couple plot points that pay off well. It’s apparently based off a nonfiction book about the nomadic life of Americans living in RVs and moving from place to place. Apparently many of the roles are played by the actual people in the book.

If you like smalltalk with strangers while passing the time you’d probably like this movie.

I watched it last night on Hulu, and LOVED it, although I could see why many people wouldn’t. It’s slow-paced, much of it is filmed at night or in dark areas, and a lot of the topic brought up are not pleasant. However, I actually found it uplifting because it didn’t have a single unlikable character in it, except maybe for a few people at the BBQ.

(I’m on a 1-month trial that I got when I found out that a much-publicized, hard to find doco called “Cold Case Hammarskjold” is airing there. Saw it first, and - also without giving spoilers - while it’s long been believed that the plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskjold and everyone else aboard was assassination, it later goes down an unrelated dubious rabbit hole. One of the interviewees is named Alex Jones, although it’s not THAT one, and if that rabbit hole is true, it’s describing something worse than the Holocaust. To me, it was like a cross between “The Thin Blue Line” and “This Is Spinal Tap”.)

Probably the most boring movie I’ve ever watched. I couldn’t wait for it to end.