Nomadland Parent Guide
This unique road trip movie is more about the journey than the destination.
Parent Movie Review
Fern (Francis McDormand) has lost everything that matters. Her Husband. Her job. Her town. Patching herself together with what threads are left of her dignity, Fern packs a few, meager possessions into a camper van and hits the road.
Even though she insists she is “houseless, not homeless”, the sixty-something woman still finds herself incredulous at her situation. Things were bad when the recession of 2008 sent all of America into an economic slump. But who could have guessed that by 2011 the factory in Empire, Nevada would be shuttered throwing its inhabitants out of work and forcing them to move away?
Although it is suggested, early retirement is not an option for Fern. She simply can’t survive on her benefits. Besides, she still has plenty of strength and desire to keep providing for herself. She just can’t find a job despite a diverse resume that includes experience in teaching and human resource management.
So Fern and her van drive from place to place, stopping where temporary labor is needed, then packing up and ambling off to look for the next employment opportunity. As she transitions from seasonal worker at an Amazon warehouse to a camp host at a national park, then kitchen staff at a restaurant, she discovers she is not alone. The country’s highways and byways are full of people just like herself. Living in campsites, gas stations, parking lots or on BML land (Bureau of Land Management), this eclectic group of nomads start to become familiar faces. They even have a gathering place and a mentor to teach them the ropes of “Cheap RV Living”. Before long, Fern finds herself making friends, learning their stories, embracing this lifestyle (including skinny dipping – and a shot of full-frontal nudity is shown) and reflecting deeply on her past as she tries to chart a course ahead.
This unique road trip movie is more about the journey than the destination. It’s based on a work of non-fiction written by author Jessica Bruderwho lived amongst a group of wanderers in order to get material for Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century. Director Chloé Zhao used a similar method for adapting the book to a movie. She had Francis McDormand become part of the nomadic community that consists mainly of senior citizens. Most the people who appear on screen are not actors! They are the travelers the film crew met along the way. This approach also accounts for the authenticity of the shared tales audiences will hear as they join this caravan.
Straddling the line between documentary and drama, this quiet film speaks volumes about a system that consumes the hard-working years of its laborers’ lives, then discards them when they cease to be useful. While it may be a small segment of society, it is one that is growing. And once you have ridden a mile in their ramshackle mobile homes, you won’t see them, their goals, or the American dream, in quite the same way ever again.Directed by Chloé Zhao . Starring Frances McDormand, David Strathairn. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release February 19, 2021. Updated February 18, 2021
Watch the trailer for Nomadland
Rating & Content Info
Why is Nomadland rated R? Nomadland is rated R by the MPAA for some full nudity
Violence: Refences to loss, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm, euthanasia and suicide. People talk about life threating illnesses, surgery and facing death. Challenges of living on the road are discussed, such as the peril of cold weather, proper sanitation, finding safe locations and preparing for mechanical problems. Song lyrics include the phrase, “Blood in beer”. Tourists at wildlife attractions are afraid of snakes and an alligator eating raw meat.
Sexual Content: Urination and bowel movements are depicted: sounds are heard, and characters are seen adjusting clothing. by fence. A woman’s bare back and shoulders are shown a couple of times. Full-frontal female nudity is seen during a skinny-dipping scene. Characters clean disgustingly dirty public bathrooms. A man urinates in front of cleaning lady (we see him from behind). A woman’s underwear is seen while she is doing her laundry.
Profanity: Infrequent use of mild and moderate profanity, along with the use of terms of deity as expletives.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink beer and hard alcohol in bars. Wine is served at family gatherings. Smoking is seen throughout the film. A character talks about the use of morphine to combat cancer pain.
Page last updated February 18, 2021
Nomadland Parents' Guide
What do you think are the reasons Francis McDormand’s character Fern is on the road? How many of these things are out of her control? How many are choices? If you found yourself without a house, what would you do? For you, is home a feeling or a location?
Most of the people the character Fern meets in her travels are real—not actors. What reasons do they give for living like nomads? One observer claims many of the wanderers are working through grief. Do you agree? Another says she doesn’t want to “die with my boat on the driveway”. What does she mean? Someone compares life to being a work horse who has been put out to pasture. What is that metaphor trying to say? Still others appear to be searching for healing or solace. How do you work though tough breaks and/or hard questions?
One of the people you meet in the movie is the blogger behind Bob Wells Cheap RV Living. Why do you think he has such a following? Have you ever wanted to get away from civilization and live on the road? How might society be driving away older people who used to be contributors? Is it a shame that so many people are living like nomads? Or is it about personal freedom?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This movie is based on a book by Jessica Bruderentitled Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.
The plague of homelessness in America is tackled by Matthew Desmond in the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.