BAXTER — Finding your way in life is never easy.

There are plenty of twists and turns along the way and the metaphorical journey of one woman played by Frances McDormand is the basis of “Nomadland,” an award-winning new drama.

The film was released by Searchlight Pictures in theaters like the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and on the streaming digital platform Hulu on Feb. 19, as well as earlier in select IMAX theaters.

“Nomadland" stars Frances McDormand as a transient widow living out of her van. The new movie was released last month by Searchlight Pictures. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
“Nomadland" stars Frances McDormand as a transient widow living out of her van. The new movie was released last month by Searchlight Pictures. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

The two-time Oscar-winner stars as Fern, an older woman reeling from the loss of her husband and the loss of her job after the U.S. gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada, shuts down in 2011.

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Audiences are first introduced to Fern on screen as she looks at the contents of her rental storage unit, trying to decide what to bring along with her in her van she lives out of.

The rental storage facility sits in the shadow of the desolate, abandoned, once-bustling plant she and her late husband built their shared lives around, and a community she loved.

A 1952 GMC school bus is parked during a stopover near Ely, Nevada. Photo by Britta Preusse on Unsplash.com
A 1952 GMC school bus is parked during a stopover near Ely, Nevada. Photo by Britta Preusse on Unsplash.com

Fern takes a seasonal job at an Amazon fulfillment center during Christmastime where she meets other transients, some of whom also live out of their vehicles while looking for work.

A friend and co-worker invites Fern to an Arizona desert rendezvous organized by Bob Wells, a notable van dweller who embraces and promotes a minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle.

The real-life Wells founded the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual gathering of van dwellers, and is one of the few others in the motion picture who play fictionalized versions of themselves.

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Fern learns the basics of van dwelling at the rendezvous and tips on how to survive, such as how to construct a basic toilet using a bucket or how to evade authorities during encampments.

Her road-survival skills only grow after meeting Swankie, another real-life nomad, who befriends the newbie.

Fern learns many of the van dwellers she encounters along the way have their own reasons for embarking on an unusual — and often challenging — journey of self-discovery, just like herself.

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Fern later finds work as a camp host at the Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park. She befriends David, another nomad she first encountered at the Arizona desert rendezvous.

The two of them grow close, especially after his health suddenly takes a turn for the worse. They then take jobs working at the restaurant at Wall Drug, a tourist spot, in South Dakota.

David reveals he is expecting a grandchild and was invited by his son to stay with him. David extends an invitation to Fern to accompany him or visit him there if she likes. Fern then must decide to possibly put down roots with David, or hit the road and find her own way in life.

The R-rated film was directed, written and edited by Chloé Zhao, who became the second woman to win Best Director at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, which took place Sunday.

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Zhao also became the first Asian woman to take home the award, which was determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and often seen as a precursor to the Academy Awards.

The feature film adaptation is based on the 2017 nonfiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder, a journalist.

Bruder’s book focused on older Americans during the Great Recession who adopted a transient lifestyle traveling in search of seasonal work.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum.