Sunday Movie Review – Nomadland

Sunday Movie Review – Nomadland with Frances McDormand.

I often watch movies or series that deal with the human condition. This movie was a perfect study specimen. Frances McDormand plays Fern, a woman whose life has been uprooted after the death of her husband and the loss of her home due to the Great Recession. Strength of character is what captures my attention, and in this movie, McDormand proves she’s worthy of all the accolades this film received.


A somewhat melancholy and disturbing movie, but a good educational watch. Frances McDormand as Fern is just one of the ‘victims’ caught up in the carnage in 2011 after the financial crash when many Americans lost their homes. Fern becomes a van-dwelling woman in her 60s who leaves her town of Empire, Nevada, where her and her husband had lived and worked. He died, and the plant shut down. And with no insurance and not enough income to live on, she was a senior, forced to leave the home she could no longer afford to keep.

Fern ventured out of her company town in rural Nevada in her van to explore a life outside of conventional society – a modern day nomad. As it turned out, many other seniors did the same thing after that crisis. Fern packed all she could into her white van and traveled cross country to various RV parks on her journey across America to discover where she should plant herself and call home. Along the way she does various odd jobs to make a paycheck, quite a few of them as temporary warehouse worker for Amazon, and makes friends like herself along the way. It’s the stories told by some of these people that will take us in.

This movie features real people portraying themselves as some of the nomads in the film. And their real names were listed in the credits. Three people in particular became Fern’s mentors, as they knew the lifestyle well – Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells were Fern’s mentors and comrades through her exploration driving through the American West. Besides McDormand playing Fern and David Strathairn playing Dave, most of the cast were real RVers.


Quote from Bob: “One of the things I love most about this life is that there’s no final goodbye. You know, I’ve met hundreds of people out here and I don’t ever say a final goodbye. I always just say, I’ll see you down the road. And I do. And whether it’s a month, or a year, or sometimes years, I see them again.”

Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells were Fern’s mentors (and essentially, Frances McDormand’s) and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.”  The IMDB movie reviewer sight quotes the movie’s description, ” A woman in her sixties, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.”


The inspiration for Chloé Zhao’s celebrated film starring Frances McDormand, winner of the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress

March and April pick for the PBS Newshour-New York Times “Now Read This” Book Club

New York Times bestseller


“People who thought the 2008 financial collapse was over a long time ago need to meet the people Jessica Bruder got to know in this scorching, beautifully written, vivid, disturbing (and occasionally wryly funny) book.” —Rebecca Solnit


The movie is dubbed as ‘Surviving America in the 21st century’.

After movie credits stated: ‘Dedicated to those who had to depart.’


The movie won a few academy awards, three of which were to McDormand’s credit – Best Actor, Best Producer (McDormand also produced it), and Best Picture.


Other awards the movie took:

American Film Institute Awards February 26, 2021. Won.

American Film Institute Awards February 26, 2021. Won.

The Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival

People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival


The original book was written as an investigative look at what happened after the carnage of the 2008 financial crisis, by Jessica Bruder, garnering almost 7000 reviews. It’s now on my reading list:




From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads.


On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald’s vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others—including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May.


In a secondhand vehicle she christens “Van Halen,” Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying Linda May and others from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable “Earthship” home, they have not given up hope.


Has anyone here seen the movie or read the book yet? What did you think?





40 thoughts on “Sunday Movie Review – Nomadland

    1. Yes, the subject matter is depressing, but sadly, that’s real life, and you know I’m drawn to stories about the human condition. Sad story, but well done movie and acting by McDormand. 🙂 x


  1. Great review of the movie, Debby. Me too, I don’t say goodbye. I said, “I’ll see you soon” to my sister who died of heart failure. I wasn’t there when my mom and dad passed away.


  2. I’ve wanted to see this movie but missed it on the big screen. Now it’s on Hulu, I believe. We have Netflix, Prime Video, but not Hulu.

    Frances McDormand is a great actor, and I like the subject matter, so eventually I’ll see it. Your review solidifies my intention. Thanks, Debby!


    1. Hi Marian. I’m happy to hear my review solidified your intention to see this movie. I believe it’s on Netflix and/or Prime. Check in the search menu of both. 🙂 xx


  3. HI Debby, This was a fantastic review. I love Frances McDormand, and heave heard about this movie but haven’t seen it yet again. I’ve been a bit afraid too, to be honest – but snippets I’ve seen look fantastic. Toni x


  4. Interesting you reviewed this one, Debby, as I watched it just a couple of nights ago. It’s definitely a compelling story and one that tugs at the heart to see the suffering of others who lost everything. Fern was remarkable for her strength. She seemed to be able to push through anything that came her way. Swankie also had a great deal of inner strength. I can see why the movie won so many awards and add my recommendation to yours.


    1. Yay, thanks so much Norah for adding your thoughts here. It was surely a powerful movie with the subject matter and McDormand playing the lead character. Happy to hear you also recommend. ❤


  5. I saw this movie being advertised heavily for a period of time, but never clicked on it. You’ve convinced me to give it a shot, Debby. I think we’re heading into a future where many people will be living in their vehicles. Thanks for the thoughtful review and recommendation.


  6. This movie is so well known, I’m almost ashamed to say I haven’t seen it (nor have I read the book). Thanks to your interesting review, I will make a point to seek it out. So many people suffered during that time! Stories of perseverance and survival are always inspiring.


  7. I saw this movie, Debby, and am glad I did. It’s an eye-opener to what many people experienced in that time and now due to the pandemic. I can see why it won so many awards, and I also love Frances McDormand who did an outstanding job. I haven’t read the book though, so now you’ve inspired me. I usually feel the books are much better than their movie counterparts, so it will be interesting to see if that feeling holds true after reading this book. Thanks for your wonderful review. ❤️


    1. Thanks so much Lauren. It truly was an eye-opener. I thought the movie was so well done, but I know the book will add so much more. And I tend to agree with you that most books are better than the movie, but I’ve seen my share of good movies that did the book justice, so who knows. 🙂 ❤


  8. Debby, an excellent review and summary! I can’t wait to see the film but unfortunately not available yet. I had no idea it was based on a book and I’m now probably even more interested in reading this first! Another one to add to my TBR list!


  9. I watched it with my mother (one of the few movies I watched at the cinema last year) and I enjoyed it (if that is the right word). It is oddly beautiful and it has a strong sense of community, despite the sad situation. And some a fantastic central performance. A strange way of life, but one perhaps more people than we realise have to lead. I’m curious about the book. Thanks, Debby.


    1. Thanks for reading Olga. Yes, exactly how I’d describe it – sad, yet a beautiful telling. And the homeless situation just keeps growing in many parts of the world – like my own city! That’s the sadness. ❤


  10. I haven’t seen the movie, but I want to. I’ve watched many videos with Bob Wells, so I know a lot about what was discussed here. The nomad life is not for everyone, but it is appealing for many. At least for a while. Some do it by choice. They don’t want to live grounded to one spot.

    I compare these travellers to sailors who live on their boats and travel the world. It’s something I’ve considered doing at least for a short time. Yet, I love the idea of a cabin in the woods with a large garden to tend, a place where I can watch the seasons change.

    Thanks for bringing this movie to my attention. These nomads are the luckiest people on Earth, yet in some cases have the saddest stories. I hope those who want to live that life get to, and those who do not find a permenant home in a place they love.


    1. Thanks Diane. I know many enjoy the RV life, but I would say more that the story depicts more about those who’ve had no choice to live that way. 🙂


      1. It is sad when people don’t have another option. If faced with this life situation, I hope they find some joy in the life they do live. Humans are resilient if we choose to be. Folks like Bob Wells seem to relish in this life style. If given a place to stay, they may turn it down and hit the road again. At least while they’re still able to drive and do the things they do to meet the minimum requirements of living.

        While my uncle wasn’t travelling, he was living a similar life on one plot of borrowed land in a small structure he had constructed on wheels. When he felt the urge, he’d pull it back into the woods where he’d hunt and fish. He knew those around him just as those on the road recognised a friendly face. This was his preferred way of living.

        From what I can tell from the trailer, Fern embraced the life on the road once she got on it. I’m assuming it was rough to start — all life changes are. Sometimes things aren’t better or worst, only different.

        Netflix doesn’t have this movie, so I’ll have to wait to watch it since I don’t have TV.


      2. Thanks Diane. And I so agree, many of us don’t like change, the hardest part to adapt to. Check Prime, and if you have CraveTV it’s there too. 🙂


  11. This is a pretty good movie, Debby, and very realistic. I’m glad you liked it. Not only did I recognize Bob Wells (who we met up with in Quartszite one winter and who actually did a few interviews with us but never posted them), but, like you, I also noticed that most characters played themselves when I read the credits. This, honestly, could have been non-fiction, a true story.

    Not sure if you remember, but Mark worked at an Amazon warehouse once as well and we’ve met plenty of people who worked at the beet harvest. Did you think about us at all when watching the movie? Just wondering, as many people have brought up the movie to us, wondering if we could relate. (We can to some parts.) I haven’t read the book, but Mark has.


    1. Hi Liesbet. So interesting you guys met Bob Wells. And yes, many in the movie were real RVers. And yes, I did think of you guys when watching it, especially the Amazon job part! 🙂 xx


  12. Hi Debby – I saw the film and was totally engrossed in it … the thought that was at the forefront of my mind – was it’s something I don’t think we could easily do here … we just don’t have the space that the States has. I learnt a lot about life and her ability to deal with all situations – she was certainly resilient. Great review you’ve given us … I doubt I’ll read the book – so much else to read … but loved the film, and the telling and now your review. Cheers – Hilary


    1. Hi Hilary. Thanks so much for letting us know here that you did watch this movie. It seems you got out of it what I did. Yes, I’m like you, if I thoroughly enjoyed a movie I don’t usually read the book after. But it’s there for those who prefer the book, and I’m sure it goes into much more detail. Hugs xx


  13. Late getting here but an earlier comment got lost when I clicked an accept cookies button. Oh well. Haven’t seen the movie or read the book, but I have seen many great performances by Frances McDormand in movies or TV series. She is fantastic.
    We traveled by RV on occasion for awhile, some years ago. While doing so, we met some “full-timers.” Had no desire nor a need to be one them. It seems like freedom having an RV and being able to go anywhere but it’s a hassle. It’s one thing to choose this life; another to be forced into it. Fuel costs, hookups, drive-through sites, etc. Yes, you do meet interesting people. Maybe we can catch this on one of the channels we get on DirecTV.
    Another book from back in 2014 is very interesting, by award-winning writer and journalist Philip Caputo–“The Longest Road.” Never having been on an RV trip, he and his wife drove from Key West to Deadhorse in Alaska, on Prudhoe Bay. Couldn’t go much further! The book chronicles all the conversations along the way. Political and more.


    1. Thanks John. I may check out that book. As for this movie, Fern didn’t have a choice but to live in her van, a bit different from some who choose the high road adventure. 🙂


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