April 27, 2021 — Nomadland scored a hat trick at the the 2021 academy awards. It won Best Picture. Chloe zhao won for Best Director. And Frances McDormand won for Best Actress. The film is one of the best portrayals of one niche of retirement life we have seen (see reviews of other retirement films at end). It is based on the book of the same name by Jessica Bruder, a journalist who traveled all over the country to document the van-life experience.
Fern, played by McDormand, is a van-dwelling woman who leaves her hometown after her husband dies and the sole industry closes down. Houseless, she travels around the United States, living in her old van that she has lovingly customized. Lonely and depressed, she finds temporary work at a giant Amazon fulfillment center. There she makes friends and ends up getting talked into visiting Quartzite, a convention for those living the RV and van lifestyle. There she meets Bob Wells, the organizer of Quartzite. Wells, vanlife guru and creator of cheaprvliving.com plays a fictionalized version of himself. He has a YouTube channel that is extremely successful.
Fern meets two other people in her travels, Linda May and Swankie, played by themselves and quite delightful. A potential love interest is played by David Strathaim. Like many others who live in their vehicles, Fern makes ends meet and travels the country with different gigs including food prep at a resort and as a camper host at a campground. The community that she meets in her travels enjoy a warm communal spirit that makes the lifestyle seem attractive. But the negative sides of this display of this lifestyle are also evident. Those include the practical and nasty logistics of toileting, as well as the heartbreak of what happens when an high mileage van that has been lovingly customized breaks down.
“By its end, it feels as though you know how … these lives are lived. But within that, “Nomadland” is a sensitive and intelligent meditation on solitude, mortality (and thus, on grief and loss) and making the best of what’s left.”Watching, the New York TImes newsletter
Even for those not interested in a nomadic retirement, the film is valuable for its portrayal of so many real aspects of retirement. Those include grief, loss, the joy of friends, late in life love,, temporary work, and strained finances. We recommend it highly. You can see it on Hulu and purchase it on other streaming channels, and maybe even a theater near you.
More Retirement Films You Might Enjoy
Let us know your favorite movies about retirement in the Comments section below. Plus, your reactions to Nomadland.