Nomadland ★★★★★

I watched this movie on the one-year anniversary of my dad dying (coincidentally also the day it won the Oscar for best picture). It was a bit surreal because when my dad died, he was in the middle of preparing to leave the house both he and I grew up in on Cape Cod – a house he could no longer afford – to live in a van. So all I could think about throughout the entire movie was “this could have been my dad”.

When he told me he was planning to live in a van and travel the country, I was partly terrified. Having your 72-year-old father living alone on the road isn’t the most comforting idea, especially when you’re living on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. On the other hand – as my mom, his former wife, reminded me – it was exactly the kind of thing he had been doing his whole life. As I wrote in his obituary:

He had a strong do-it-yourself mentality and, like a textbook model for both Yankee Ingenuity and Hippie Modernism, took pride in being able to “do more with less”. Marcus welcomed new experiences with enthusiasm and was perpetually curious about everything.

As with the main character of this movie, my dad didn’t like his situation, but I think he would similarly have taken to it and embraced the same sense of adventure and discovery of meeting new people.

Part of this movie’s strength is its realism. A large part of the cast are playing versions of themself. The problems and solutions it shows are very real. The conflicts aren’t contrived and, to be honest, not a lot happens. But it’s a wonderful expression of how normal life can be both stifling and profound, simultaneously somber and beautiful.