The movie Nomadland was just released on Hulu on Feb 19. You can read two professional reviews of the film here and here.
I watched the movie with my wife over the last couple of days. My reaction to the movie was – “This reminds me of some of the folks I’ve met at the truck stops.”
That’s more a statement of fact, rather than something I’m happy about. Unfortunately, Fern (the main character in the movie – a widow in her mid-60’s who will work probably until she dies) is not an uncommon person. I went back and forth throughout the movie – laughing with Fern, but also watching what was going on and asking myself what challenges she was facing, was it something she brought on, or was she doing the best she could given the circumstances that were beyond her control.
Most of the story is about her running – all across the West, from north to south parts of the country, chasing after the next temp job that would provide her some food and money for gas. Barely surviving really.
But Fern knew freedom too. Although it’s a different kind of freedom. It’s a freedom tied to an unhealthy system that has chewed her up and spit here out. Freedom to ignore the norms of the world – mostly out of necessity. Fern is trying to survive.
The most interesting part is when she has an opportunity to leave the van life behind – Dave, a fellow traveler who has an interest in her – invites her to stay with him and his extended family. After much quiet debate, she leaves. And with that I felt a sense of hope leaves with her. She rejected Dave, but in doing so, she rejects the confines of “normal” life too.
In a way, those stuck in homelessness face many of these challenges – out of necessity. And stories like Nomadland showcase that the American Dream is often just that, a dream that is out of reach for many people. Folks like Ferm don’t have the luxury of dreaming – she’s too busy surviving.