Starring: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells, Peter Spears
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Drama written and directed by Chloé Zhao. The story centers on Fern (Frances McDormand), who following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.
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Our Favorite Quotes:'Home, is it just a word? Or is it something that you carry within you?' - Angela (Nomadland) Click To Tweet 'What's remembered lives.' - Fern (Nomadland) Click To Tweet 'I don't ever say a final goodbye. I always just say, “I’ll see you down the road.” And I do.' - Bob (Nomadland) Click To Tweet
Angela: [to Fern] Another Smith lyric I have is, “When you’re laughing, and dancing, and finally living, you hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly.” And then also the one that means the most to me is, “Home, is it just a word? Or is it something that you carry within you?”
Linda: What did you name your van?
Linda: Oh, that is very strong.
Fern: She is.
Fern: You still the smartest kid in school?
Makenzie: Yeah, kind of.
Fern: Mm‐hmm. You remember anything that we worked on when I tutored you?
Makenzie: Yes. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. And all of our yesterdays have lighted fools. The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.”
Fern: That’s really good.
Makenzie: My mom says that you’re homeless. Is that true?
Fern: No, I’m not homeless. I’m just houseless. Not the same thing, right?
Fern: Don’t worry about me. I’m okay.
Linda: Before I moved into the Squeeze Inn, I was out looking for work, and putting in applications 2008, and it was just tough. And I got to a really, really low point. And I thought about suicide, and I decided I was going to go buy a bottle of booze, turn on the propane stove, and I was going to drink that booze until I passed out. And if I woke up, I was going to light a cigarette, and I was going to blow us all up. And I looked at my two sweet little trusting dogs, my Cocker Spaniel, and my little Toy Poodle, and I just couldn’t do that to them. And I thought, well, I can’t do that to me, either.
Linda: So, I was getting close to sixty-two, and I went online to look at my social security benefit. It said five hundred and fifty dollars. Fern, I had worked my whole life. I’d worked since I was twelve years-old, raised two daughters. I couldn’t believe it. So I’m online, and I find Bob Wells Cheap RV Living. I could live in an RV, travel, and not have to work for the rest of my life.
Fern: Bob Wells looks just like Santa Claus.
Linda: Doesn’t he? Everybody says that.
Fern: What’s RTR stand for?
Linda: Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. It is in Quartzsite, Arizona, out in the middle of the desert, on BLM land. You should come. I’m going to make you a map.
Fern: No, I don’t think I’m going to go.
Linda: Oh, I hope you come. I’m going to make you a map anyway.
Bob: [as Fern is watching his YouTube video] So that’s what the RTR is. It is a support system for people who need help now.
Fern: My husband worked at the USG mine in Empire, and I worked in human resources there for a few years. That was my last full‐time job. I did a lot of part‐time jobs. I cashiered at the Empire Store. I was a substitute teacher at the school for five years.
Job Counselor: Didn’t the Empire Mine shut down, and then all of the resident workers had to relocate?
Fern: Yeah, about a year ago.
Job Counselor: So when do you need to get back to work?
Job Counselor: It is a tough time right now. You may want to consider registering for early retirement.
Fern: I don’t think I can get by on the benefits. And I need work. I like work.
Job Counselor: I’m not sure exactly what you would be eligible for.
Rachel: I don’t want to overstep my bounds here. There is a church down by 7‐Eleven. It’s a Baptist church, and they do have open beds.
Fern: I’m going to be good.
Rachel: Okay. Okay. We’re here if you need anything.
Bob: [as Fern goes to the RTR in Arizona] And the odd thing is that we not only accept the tyranny of the dollar, the tyranny of the marketplace, we embrace it. We gladly throw the yoke of the tyranny of the dollar on and live by it our whole lives. I think of an analogy as a workhorse. The workhorse that is willing to work itself to death, and then be put out to pasture. And that’s what happens to so many of us.
Bob: If society was throwing us away, and sending us, the workhorse, out to the pasture, we workhorses had to gather together and take care of each other. And that’s what this is all about. The way I see it is that the Titanic is sinking, and economic times are changing. And so my goal is to get the lifeboats out and get as many people into the lifeboats as I can.
Bryce: I’m a Vietnam vet. And I got PTSD. I really can’t handle loud noises, big crowds, fireworks. I got a pickup truck and a camper. I can live out here, and be at peace.
Merle: I worked for corporate America, you know, for twenty years. And my friend, Bill, worked for the same company, and he had liver failure. A week before he was due to retire, HR called him in hospice, and said, “Now, let’s talk about your retirement.” And he died ten days later, having never been able to take that sailboat that he bought out of his driveway. And he missed out on everything. And he told me before he died, “Just don’t waste any time, Merle. Don’t waste any time.” So I retired as soon as I could. I didn’t want my sailboat to be in the driveway when I died. So, yeah. And it’s not. My sailboat’s out here in the desert.
Bob: [to Fern] I can’t imagine what you’re going through, the loss of your husband, and the loss of your whole town, and friends, and village, and that kind of loss is never easy. And I wish I had an easy answer for you. But I think you’ve come to the right place to find an answer. I think that, I think connecting to nature, and to a real true community, and tribe, will make all the difference for you. I hope so.
Bob: One of the questions that I get all the time is, “Bob, I have to live in the city. I’d like to be out here, but I can’t. How can I avoid the famous knock on the door?” So I’ve developed what I call the Ten Commandments of Stealth Parking.
Woman: I love this lifestyle. It is a lifestyle of freedom, and beauty, and connection to the Earth. Yet there is a trade‐off. You got to learn how to take care of your own s**t.
Dave: There’s a black hole in every van. Specially mine. One time I had seven of these can openers.
Fern: Doesn’t happen to me.
Fern: I blew my tire.
Swankie: Well, go change it.
Fern: I don’t have a spare.
Swankie: You don’t have a spare? You’re out in the boondocks, and you don’t have a spare?
Swankie: [to Fern] You can die out here. You’re out in the wilderness, far away from anybody. You can die out here. Don’t you understand that? You have to take it seriously. You have to have a way to get help. You have to be able to change your own tire.
Fern: Alright, let me just say that this is a lot more complicated than I thought.
Swankie: Oh, it’s very, very complicated.
Swankie: And it’s taking me a long time to patch all the peeling paint on this van. So are you quitting on me?
Fern: Okay. No, no, I’m not quitting.
Swankie: When we get done with all this, I’m going to give you all my paint. I don’t want to take any more of it with me. You can have it all because, you know, your van looks kind of ratty.
Fern: No, it doesn’t. She does not. She just needs a wash.
Swankie: Doctors told me that, well, I had cancer removed from my lung a while back, and small cell carcinoma. And they told me it’s spread to my brain. And they’ve only given me seven or eight months to live.
Fern: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Swankie: I’m going to take my trip. I’m going to go back to Alaska again, because of some good memories. And just do what I have to do.
Swankie: I have this book called Final Exitby Dr. Kevorkian. Some people call him Dr. Death. And it’s like various ways that you can end your life if you need to. And it’s kind of like a recipe. I have it, if I have to fall back on it for some ideas, but I’m not going to spend any more time indoors in a hospital. No, thanks. I’m going to be seventy-five this year, and I think I’ve lived a pretty good life.
Swankie: I felt like I’d done enough. My life was complete. If I died right then, that moment, it’d be perfectly fine.
Swankie: I don’t know. Maybe when I die, my friends will gather around the fire, and toss a rock into the fire in memory of me.
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