Nomadland (2020) – Transcript

After losing everything in the Great Recession, a woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
Nomadland (2020) Frances McDormand

Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The third feature film from director Chloé Zhao, Nomadland features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.

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On January 31, 2011, due to a reduced demand for sheetrock, US Gypsum shut down its plant in Empire, Nevada, after 88 years.

By July, the Empire zip code, 89405, was discontinued.


FERN: Okay, here’s what I owe ya.

Okay. Thank you. … You take care of yourself.





FERN: ♪♪ What Child is this ♪♪

♪♪ Who laid to rest ♪♪

♪♪ On Mary’s lap is sleeping? ♪♪

♪♪ Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet… ♪♪

♪♪ While shepherds watch are keeping? ♪♪


PATTY: I don’t see your reservation.

FERN: I’m on the Amazon CamperForce list.


FERN: Try M‐C‐D.

There it is.

FERN: Yeah.


FERN: Hmm…





Good morning, everybody. How’s everybody doing today?


All right, let me get a safety tip.

Three‐point contact.

ANGELA: Why is it important to maintain three points of contact?

So you don’t fall down the stairs.

ANGELA: So you don’t fall down the stairs. Can I get a standard work tip from you?

FERN: He’s an oddball, right? Ed? He’s an oddball.


FERN: That’s not even long enough. Now, okay… Some plastic…

WOMAN: This is Carl.


WOMAN: This is Angela.


WOMAN: Doug.

Hi, Fern.

Ryan. Teresa.

Hey, Fern.


Good to meet you.

And your good ol’ friend…

FERN: …Linda May.  And I’m Fern.

This is my friend Fern.

CARL: Hey.

FERN: Hi, everybody.

DOUG: Hey, how’re you, Fern?

ANGELA: Another Smith lyric I have is, “When you’re laughing and dancing, and finally living, you hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly.” And then also the one that means the most to me is, “Home, is it just a word? Or is it something that you carry within you?”

CARL: All right.


LINDA MAY: Yeah, we like that.

CARL: I like that one.


TERESA: Me, too.

ANGELA: Like, his lyrics are very deep.


And then you also have…

CARL: Yeah.






FERN: So, the guy that had the van before, he just had a mattress in the back, but I didn’t wanna keep it that way. I wanted to build the bed up so I could have storage underneath. And I got these storage drawers, one set in the front so I could get in them from the inside, and then another on the outside.

Very smart.

FERN: I thought so.


FERN: You see that?

What is this?

FERN: This is my husband’s old fishing box. I put this little latch on it, and then when I open it, the stopper holds it and creates more counterspace.


FERN: And then I keep my really nice stuff inside. My dishes that my dad gave me. He collected these, Linda May, from yard sales, and when I graduated from high school, he gave me the whole set.

Oh! They are beautiful.

(FERN LAUGHING) Isn’t that great? Yeah, it’s called Autumn Leaf. I don’t have that many pieces with me, but you know.

What did you name your van?

FERN: Vanguard.

Oh, that is very strong.

FERN: She is. Mmm.



FERN: Hey. Hey. Hey, what are you doing? (LAUGHING)

WOMAN: (ON RADIO) …the bears held at the Polar Bear Holding Facility are troublemakers who are kept imprisoned until they settle down, which can take anywhere from two to thirty days.



Hey, girls. It’s Mrs. M.


FERN: Hey, Brandy.

Oh, hi, Fern.

FERN: Hi, kids.


Say hi to Mrs. M. How are you?

FERN: I’m good.

Good. It’s nice to see you. It’s been a while. How’ve you been?

FERN: Good.

Good. You look good.

FERN: Thanks.

You cut your hair.

FERN: Yeah, I cut it.

I like it. I like it a lot.

FERN: Thank you.

Are you working at Amazon again?

FERN: Yeah, I am.

You like it?

FERN: Uh, yeah. Great money.

Are you still doing the van thing?

FERN: Yeah. I’m parked over at the Desert Rose R. V. Park.

Oh, we just drove by there today. Didn’t we, girls?

FERN: How’s your mom?

She’s wonderful. She misses you a lot.

FERN: Please tell her I miss her, too.

I will. I will. But really, Fern, if you need a place to stay, you can come over and stay with us. We’re worried about you.

FERN: Thanks. Don’t worry about me. I’ll let you know. I promise.

Okay. Okay.

FERN: See you, Aubrey.




FERN: Hi. You still the smartest kid in school?

Yeah, kinda.

FERN: Mmm‐hmm. You remember anything that we worked on when I tutored ya?

Uh… Yes. Um… “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. And all of our yesterdays have lighted fools. The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.”

FERN: That’s really good. Thank you.

Thank you.

Um… My mom says that you’re homeless. Is that true?

FERN: No, I’m not homeless. I’m just houseless. Not the same thing, right?


FERN: Don’t worry about me. I’m okay.



FEMALE RADIO ANNOUNCER: Hey, Santa, Bellweather Auto has a ho, ho, whole lotta great deals on new and used cars and trucks. So come on in and find…



LINDA MAY: Before I moved into the Squeeze Inn, I was out looking for work and putting in applications… 2008, and it was just tough. And I got to a really, really low point. (SIGHS DEEPLY) And I thought about suicide, and I decided I was gonna go buy a bottle of booze, turn on the propane stove… and I was gonna drink that booze until I passed out. And if I woke up… I was gonna light a cigarette, and I was gonna blow us all up. And I looked at my two sweet little trusting dogs, my Cocker Spaniel and my little Toy Poodle, and I just couldn’t do that to them. And I thought, well, I can’t do that to me, either. So, I was getting close to 62 and I went online to look at my social security benefit. It said $550. Fern, I had worked my whole life. I’d worked since I was 12 years old, raised two daughters. I couldn’t believe it. So I’m online, and I find Bob Wells Cheap RV Living. I could live in an RV, travel and not have to work for the rest of my life.

The RTR is a bootcamp for beginner nomads.

FERN: Bob Wells looks just like Santa Claus.

Doesn’t he? Everybody says that.


FERN: What’s RTR stand for?

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. It is in Quartzsite, Arizona, out in the middle of the desert, on BLM land. You should come. I’m gonna make you a map.

FERN: No, I don’t think I’m gonna go.

Oh, I hope you come. I’m gonna make you a map anyway.

BOB: So, that’s what the RTR is. It is a support system for people who need help now.


DOUG: See you next year, Fern. Happy holidays.

FERN: Yeah, you, too, Doug.





PATTY: Carl had a stroke.

FERN: Is he dead?

No. No, no. His daughter came and took him back East.



FERN: But they didn’t take the dog?

They couldn’t take him. Would you like to have him?


He’s really a good dog.


He’s real friendly.


Okay, so you are leaving on Thursday, right?

FERN: Yeah.

Okay. Um…

FERN: I just finished Amazon yesterday.

Okay. Amazon pays through Thursday. And then after that, it’s $375 a month.

FERN: Well, is there a discount if I don’t use the electric and dump, ’cause I just have my van, you know?

No, but since you’re in a van, it’s easy for you to move and to go south to a warmer place.

FERN: Yeah, but I wanted to get a job around here first.

Oh. Good luck with that.

FERN: Mmm. Mmm‐hmm.

That’s tough.

FERN: Bye, Patty.

Bye, Fern. We’ll see you next year.


MALE AUTOMATED VOICE: Thank you. Have a nice day.



FERN: My husband worked at the USG mine in Empire and I worked in human resources there for a few years. That was my last full‐time job. I did a lot of part‐time jobs. I cashiered at the Empire Store. I was a substitute teacher at the school for five years…

Didn’t the Empire Mine shut down and then all of the resident workers had to relocate?

FERN: Yeah, about a year ago.

Wow. So, when do you need to get back to work?

FERN: Now?

It is a tough time right now. You may want to consider registering for early retirement.

FERN: I don’t think I can get by on the benefits, and, um… I need work. I like work.

(HESITATES) I’m not sure exactly what you would be eligible for.

Hi, there.


I’m Rachel. I’m the manager here at Fox Peak.

FERN: Hi, I’m Fern.

Hi, Fern.

FERN: Um, I asked someone, they said I could park here overnight.

Oh, you’re fine. You’re more than welcome. But you know, the temperature is gonna drop. It gets really cold here at night.

FERN: Yeah, I know.

Really cold.

FERN: I can tell.

Yeah. I don’t want to overstep my bounds here. There is a church down by 7‐Eleven. It’s a Baptist church, and they do have open beds.

FERN: I’m gonna be good.

Okay. Okay. We’re here if you need anything.

FERN: Thank you.



FERN: Mmm.



FERN: Linda? Linda? Hey. Shh.

So glad you came. That’s Bob Wells.

Sit here. Keep the chair.

FERN: Thank you.

BOB: And the odd thing is that we… We not only accept the tyranny of the dollar, the tyranny of the marketplace, we embrace it. We gladly throw the yoke of the tyranny of the dollar on and live by it our whole lives. I think of an analogy as a workhorse. The workhorse that is willing to work itself to death and then be put out to pasture. And that’s what happens to so many of us. If society was throwing us away and sending us, the workhorse, out to the pasture, we workhorses had to gather together and take care of each other. And that’s what this is all about. The way I see it is that the Titanic is sinking and economic times are changing. And so my goal is to get the lifeboats out and get as many people into the lifeboats as I can.

SWANKIE: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s plenty.

DAVE: Yeah. We got plenty. Jump and shout.

SWANKIE: How many vegans we got here?

Let you know, huh?

FERN: What’s that?


DAVE: This is vegan.

FERN: No, I’m… I’m a carnivore.

MAN: Yeah.

Okay. Thank you. Yes.

FERN: Okay. Thank you, though. Looks good.

DAVE: Another carnivore?

SWANKIE: She’s a carnivore.

DAVE: Okay.

WOMAN: Mac ‘n’ cheese.

FERN: Just tell me when? You good? More? Oh! She likes the red peppers. Cilantro?



SWANKIE: No! No, no.


BRYCE: I’m a Vietnam vet. And, um, I got PTSD. I really can’t handle loud noises, uh, big crowds, fireworks. I got a pickup truck and a camper. I can live out here… and be at peace.

I had, um, finally convinced my grandpa, and my papa, and my mama, that we should take off in an RV and see the country. But then both of them were told that they had cancer, they passed away three weeks apart. I began watching Bob Wells’ videos on van‐dwelling. Then I bought my van… Paint, because she takes me where I ain’t.


And started my healing journey two and a half years ago.

MERLE: Um, I worked for corporate America, you know, for 20 years. And my friend, Bill, worked for the same company, and he had liver failure. A week before he was due to retire, HR called him in hospice, and said… “Let’s talk about your retirement.” And he died 10 days later, having never been able to take that sailboat that he bought out of his driveway. And he missed out on everything. And he told me before he died, “Just don’t waste any time, Merle. Don’t waste any time.” So I retired as soon as I could. I didn’t want my sailboat to be in the driveway when I died… (CLICKS TONGUE) so, yeah… And it’s not. My sailboat’s out here in the desert.



BOB: I can’t imagine what you’re going through, the loss of your husband, and the loss of your whole town, and friends, and village, and that kind of loss is never easy. And I wish I had an easy answer for you. But I think you’ve come to the right place to find an answer. I think that… I think connecting to nature and to a real true community and tribe, will make all the difference for you. I hope so.



LINDA MAY: Hey, Fern.

FERN: Hey, Linda.

LINDA MAY: Come over and join us.

FERN: No, I’m just gonna take a little walk.


FERN: Be back soon.




FERN: Hey. Good morning… Bob.

BOB: Morning.


BOB: One of the questions that I get all the time is, “Bob, I have to live in the city. I’d like to be out here, but I can’t. How can I avoid the famous knock on the door?” So, I’ve developed what I call the Ten Commandments of Stealth Parking.


FERN: Stop being so quiet.

And then, in and out. Just make… You gotta make the hole bigger so the rope fits.


Very… Yeah. That’s it. That’s perfect.


WOMAN: Oh, my God. Ladies. Then you go…


I love this lifestyle. It is a lifestyle of freedom and beauty, and connection to the Earth. Yet there is a trade‐off. You gotta learn how to take care of your own shit.


Most of us, in this lifestyle, use a five‐gallon bucket. Most of us are in vans or something larger. I’m in a Prius, so I use a two‐gallon bucket.


If you have bad knees, you could use a seven‐gallon bucket.


Hi, Fern.

FERN: Hi, guys.



Got these for you. Thank you. These are nice.

FERN: Yeah.

DAVE: She always has some nice appliances.

Here, you should take this one. That one’s kind of funky.

FERN: Oh. These yours?

DAVE: Yeah. There’s a black hole in every van. Specially mine. One time I had seven of these can openers.

FERN: Doesn’t happen to me. Trade you for a potholder. I make ’em.

Okay, sure. Wow. What is this? Crochet?

FERN: No. Something different. … Nice.

Wow, that is nice.

FERN: Yeah.


FERN: Uh‐uh‐uh. It’s going home with me.



FERN: See ya.

Thank you.

FERN: Yep.


FERN: Seems like the work is not gonna be horrible. Uh‐oh, uh‐oh, it’s sliding.

FERN: Do you take resumes?


FERN: I’ll leave it with you, just in case.

No. Just go on…

FERN: Go online?


FERN: Oh, okay.

I got a four‐pack for $100. Just like that.


FERN: Did you feel it?

MAN: That’s what it does to people.

(LAUGHS) It scared me.

MAN: It scares them away.

FERN: You guys know how much money is sitting here? It’s like they’re, uh, dinosaurs.



FERN: Nope. Watch out, watch out. Watch the steps.


AUTOMATED VOICE: Welcome aboard.

FERN: Whoa.


FERN: It’s like a disco.

Oh, my gosh. Oh, the lighting is beautiful.

FERN: Washer and dryer.

Oh, my gosh.

You’re kidding.

Oh, man.

FERN: Okay, ladies, where are we going?

LINDA MAY: Hawaii.

SWANKIE: No, no. Well, yeah. Well, there’s water between here and there. Let’s not go to the East Coast. There’s no place big enough over there to park something this size.


LINDA MAY: This is a magic bus. We could go to Hawaii.


SWANKIE: Okay. Hawaii.

CAMPERS: ♪♪ In our vans again ♪♪


♪♪ Goin’ places That we’ve never been ♪♪

♪♪ Going places ♪♪

♪♪ We may never go again ♪♪


♪♪ And we can’t wait to get in our vans again ♪♪

♪♪ Rubber tramps again ♪♪

♪♪ Like a band of Gypsies We go down to Quartzsite ♪♪

♪♪ We’ll see Bob again ♪♪

All right. In Quartzsite, Arizona, especially in the Quartzsite Yacht Club, line dancing is a long‐standing tradition, so here we go.


♪♪ Well I went down to Quartzsite ♪♪

♪♪ Been trying to sell my wares ♪♪

♪♪ I got a great selection You can’t find just anywhere ♪♪

♪♪ Well, I know I’ve got no money I hear it all the time ♪♪

♪♪ I bet they’ll be back tomorrow ♪♪

♪♪ ‘Cause that’s your favorite line ♪♪

♪♪ Well, I’m selling drink at half‐price ♪♪

♪♪ I’m taking out a loan ♪♪

♪♪ Man, if I don’t make some money soon ♪♪

♪♪ I’ll never get back home ♪♪

♪♪ I got the Quartzsite vendor blues ♪♪

Looks like you got a hankering to go out there.



You sure?

FERN: Okay.

Come on.

FERN: All right.

♪♪ And we can start over ♪♪

♪♪ With what could’ve been ♪♪

There are no professionals here.

♪♪ We’ll hold each other close ♪♪

♪♪ And fall in love again ♪♪

♪♪ We’ll hold each other close ♪♪

♪♪ And fall in love again ♪♪

♪♪ So have you ever thought of getting back with me ♪♪

♪♪ And maybe friends can be the way they used to be ♪♪

♪♪ I swear I’ll never hurt you ♪♪

♪♪ I’ll never set you free ♪♪

♪♪ If you ever think of getting back with me ♪♪


WOMAN AND MAN: Goodbye, Fern!




FERN: Nice.



MAN: (ON RADIO) …for your security while on the road, or out in the boondocks, so if there are any questions that you may have regarding RV system design, maintenance, and troubleshooting, stop on by today, and bring your rig, so that we can help you take advantage of what Mother Nature is offering for free.





FERN: Hey, Ron. Can you come here a second? These guys have some really nice stuff.

FERN: This is Noodle, Roxy. That’s Ron.

How’s it going, Ron? Noodle.

Trying to make some gas money.


BOTH: Nice to meet you.

FERN: Yeah, I think these are really nice, Ron. Look at that work.

It’s got nice whoop‐de‐doos.

FERN: Yeah, look at that. Yeah. Look, look.

I see those.

FERN: Ron, look.




MAN: Hello, ma’am. You by chance have an extra cigarette?

FERN: Yeah, sure. Need a light?

I’d love one.


FERN: Need it?

Well, sure. Thank you.

FERN: Yep.

What’s your name?

FERN: Fern.

Fern, Derek.

FERN: Hi, Derek.

Well, it’s nice to meet you.

FERN: Nice to meet you.

I’ll be seeing you.

FERN: Mmm‐hmm.



SWANKIE: What? What?

FERN: It’s Fern, it’s Fern, Swankie. It’s Fern.


FERN: Hey. Hi.

Didn’t you see the flag?

FERN: Yeah, yeah. I’m sorry.

It means I don’t wanna be disturbed. I know.

FERN: I need a ride to town.


FERN: I blew my tire.

Well, go change it.

FERN: I don’t have a spare.

You don’t have a spare? You’re out in the boondocks and you don’t have a spare?


You can die out here. You’re out in the wilderness, far away from anybody. You can die out here. Don’t you understand that? You have to take it seriously. You have to have a way to get help. You have to be able to change your own tire.

FERN: I appreciate it. Thanks, Swankie.

All right. You can… You can pay me back. I’m gonna go on this trip. I’m getting ready to leave. I got a lot to do. I can’t get it all done fast enough.

FERN: Yeah, sure. I owe ya. I owe ya.

You can help me finish things up. I really appreciate it.

FERN: You got it.

Here’s what I suggest. Don’t get AAA, okay? You gotta get something like a SPOT device. A satellite tracking device.

We need to soak the sandpaper. It’s called wet and dry.

FERN: Mmm‐hmm.

SWANKIE: We need it to be wet.

FERN: Ready?


FERN: Yep.

Now we need to mask the fender off, because white paint will land on the fender, too. Put plastic over this.

FERN: All right, let me just say that this is a lot more complicated than I thought.

Oh, it’s very, very complicated.

FERN: Uh‐huh.

And it’s taking me a long time to patch all the peeling paint on this van. So are you quitting on me?

FERN: Okay. No, no, I’m not quitting.

SWANKIE: When we get done with all this, I’m gonna give you all my paint. I don’t want to take any more of it with me, you can have it all ’cause your van looks kind of… ratty.

FERN: No, it doesn’t. She does not. She just needs a wash.

No. You take my paint.












Ugh. Ugh.

(KNOCK AT DOOR) Fern. It’s Swankie.

FERN: What? I’m indisposed.

SWANKIE: Where did I get all this stuff?

FERN: Yeah? Well, it adds up. Where’d it come from?

I just put on Facebook, Quartzsite Chatter, the other day that I was givin’ all this stuff away and I asked people to come get it. So, I’m hopin’ they do.

FERN: I love this.

SWANKIE: Take it.

FERN: You kidding?

It’s yours.

FERN: Whoa, that’s nice.

You look really good in that chair.


SWANKIE: And that’s called red, white, and blue jasper.

FERN: What’s that?

That’s petrified palm wood. And that’s part of the same… (COUGHS) Rock, and, uh…

FERN: Mmm‐hmm.

Ouch! Um…

FERN: Careful, your arm.

That’s another one of the red, white, and blue.


FERN: What’s going on? What?

I don’t feel very good. I got a headache.

FERN: Hey. Here. Sit down.



Got it?

What’s goin’ on? What do you need?

My head hurts really, really bad and I’m nauseated. (EXHALES, HICCUPS)

FERN: Water’ll help? Would water help?

Oh, yeah. Oh, boy.

FERN: Here. Careful, your arm.

GIRL: (ON TV) Mrs. McQuarry reminded me of someone.


FERN: You all right?

SWANKIE: Mmm‐hmm. I… I guess I’m all right.


FERN: You okay?

SWANKIE: Um… Doctors told me that… Well, I had cancer removed from my lung a while back and, small cell carcinoma. And they told me it’s spread to my brain. And they’ve only given me seven or eight months to live.

FERN: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

SWANKIE: I’m gonna take my trip. I’m gonna go back to Alaska again, because of some good memories. And, um, just do what I have to do. I have this book called Final Exit by Dr. Kevorkian. Some people call him Dr. Death. And it’s like, various ways that you can end your life if you need to. And, um, it’s kind of like a recipe. (CHUCKLES) I have it, if I have to fall back on it for some ideas, but I’m not gonna spend any more time indoors in a hospital. No, thanks. … I’m gonna be 75 this year and I think I’ve lived a pretty good life. I’ve seen some really neat things, kayaking, all those places. And, you know, moose in the wild. A moose family on a river in Idaho. Um… And big, white pelicans landin’ just six feet over my kayak on a lake in Colorado. Or, uh… um, come around a bend, was a cliff, and find hundreds and hundreds of swallow nests on the wall of the cliff. And the swallows flyin’ all around. And reflecting in the water so it looks like I’m flying with the swallows and they’re under me, and over me, and all around me. And the little babies are hatchin’ out and egg shells are fallin’ out of the nests, landin’ on the water and floatin’ on the water. These little white shells. It’s like, well, it’s just so awesome. I felt like I’d done enough. My life was complete. If I died right then, that moment, it’d be perfectly fine.



SWANKIE: I don’t know. Maybe when I die, my friends will gather around the fire and toss a rock into the fire in memory of me. (BREATHES DEEPLY) Oh, I see somethin’ neat.

Here we go. And then pull it up and close it up.

How’s that?


Oh! Look at this. (LAUGHING)


SWANKIE: My grandmother made that for me, and gave it to me. So, enjoy. Take good care of it.

WOMAN: Thank you.





FERN: Can I tell you somethin’, Swankie?


FERN: Been thinkin’ a lot about my husband Bo. When it got really bad at the end, they had him in the hospital on morphine drip and I would sit there at night, in the hospital. And… I’d wanna put my thumb down on that morphine drip just a little bit longer… so I could let him go. Maybe I should have tried harder so he could have gone sooner without all that pain.

SWANKIE: Well, maybe he wouldn’t have wanted that. Maybe he was tryin’ to stay with you as long as he could. I’m sure you took good care of him, Fern.

FERN: I did.

SWANKIE: Bye, Fern.



All right.

♪♪ Hey, hey, how ’bout a drink? ♪♪

♪♪ How about a toast to our friends? ♪♪

♪♪ Not the friends you’re gonna see every day, no ♪♪

♪♪ Instead we’re gonna drink to the friends ♪♪

♪♪ Who had to go away ♪♪

♪♪ I bet you know just who I mean ♪♪

♪♪ The friends who had to depart ♪♪

♪♪ The friends in our heart ♪♪

♪♪ Ya hear the blues ♪♪

♪♪ In my boogie ♪♪

♪♪ Can you see the blood in my beer ♪♪

♪♪ Just help me laugh at pain ♪♪

♪♪ Help me smile away the tears ♪♪








FERN: Hey. How you doin’?

Hi, there.

Thank you very much.

FERN: Yeah, sure. It’s just black, so…

Ah, that’s good.

FERN: Hello. Coffee?

I know you.

FERN: Yeah, hi. Dave. Right? Guess.


FERN: Yes. I have your can opener.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you do. Are you working here now or…

FERN: Yeah, first year. So, coffee?

Uh… Yeah, sure.



FERN: Yeah.

That’s good.

FERN: Black, so… If you want anything in it, you gotta put it in. So, see ya.

Yeah. Have a good day.

FERN: I’m your camp host.

One thing you wanna make sure that you always do is put on gloves. You need to protect your health. We have people from all over the world coming here. Give ’em a little puff. (BLOWS) And that’s it.

FERN: The walls, too? Or just that silver thing?

Oh, walls, too.

FERN: Yes. Walls, too. Okay.

LINDA MAY: Where do you go and find scenery like this?

FERN: Right here is where you go.


FERN: The Badlands.

The Badlands.


FERN: We be the bitches of the Badlands.





I don’t want those on me. No. (BOTH LAUGHING)

FERN: Some people. Oh, that’s almost a whole bag of Doritos.

Excuse me.

FERN: Yeah? Hey.

Are you the camp host?

FERN: Yeah. I’m Fern. That’s Linda May.

How you guys doin’?

FERN: Good.

I’d shake your hand…

I’m Victor.

…but you wouldn’t. Not now.

FERN: Yeah. You don’t wanna touch these.

Well, the power’s out here. We’re tryin’ to have our daughter’s birthday party.

FERN: Is it on?

VICTOR: It’s on!

FERN: All right!

Do you want me to tie this one on your wrist, too?

KID: Oh, no! The wind’s picking up!

LINDA MAY: Oh, my. Oops. Which hand do you want it on? That one? What beautiful hands.

Thank you.

There you go.

FERN: Welcome to Badlands Spa. Can I please have a volunteer from the audience?


FERN: Okay.


FERN: Oh, doesn’t that feel wonderful? What’s your name, miss?


FERN: Linda.

MAN: Hi, may I help you?

Yes. We’re here for the tour.

MAN: The tour will be in about 15 minutes.

LINDA MAY: Should we wait right here?

MAN: You can wait if you want, here. I got a great map of the local area, here. We have a schedule of some of the summer activities right here.


MAN: You can take one.

LINDA MAY: Oh, wonderful.


DAVE: There you go.


This is gonna be really exciting. Rub two stones together.


And you’ll see what happens as they start to get like sand. That’s why it’s so easy for a paleontologist to find fossils in here.

BOY: Why are there holes in the rocks?

DAVE: That’s a… That’s a very good question. At one time, there was air inside these rocks. Like little pockets, little bubbles of gas. And they’re trapped inside the rocks. That’s what makes them so, uh, breakable.

DAVE: (WHISTLES) Hey, hey! Find anything interesting?

FERN: Rocks!



FERN: Hey, Greg. Line that up.


ALL: To the earthship.

FERN: To the earthship, Linda May.

To the earthship.

Thank you.

DAVE: You’re welcome.

Thank you.


FERN: Oh, yeah.

LINDA MAY: Mmm‐hmm.

(FERN IN A HIGHER PITCH) Oh, makes your voice go high.

Oh, yeah. Mmm!


This is my land in Arizona. I’m gonna build an earthship that’s a totally self‐contained house, built out of tires, and bottles, and cans. So it has no waste. It in no way harms the land, this house.

GREG: Self‐sufficient?

Self‐sufficient. It looks like a living piece of art that you’ve made with your own two hands. It’s something that I can leave to my grandchildren. This house would be there for generations. Outlive us all.

GREG: That’s a good thing.

LINDA MAY: There. Now we’re on. When you get old, you get personality.


LINDA MAY: I’m not gonna see you for a while. But… But…

FERN: Oh… Oh…

You come and see me. You come and stay as long as you like. Whenever you like.

FERN: Mmm.


FERN: Thank you.


FERN: Thank you, Linda May.

Oh, thank you. You have given me so much.




FERN: Okay. Okay.





Hi, Fern.

FERN: Hey.

I was at the gas station, and, uh, and I think it’s better if you don’t drive through the park when it’s dark for your cigarettes, so I got you these.

FERN: What are they?

Uh, licorice sticks.

FERN: I can’t smoke licorice sticks, Dave.

I know, but you can chew on these, and, you know, they help curb the urge.

FERN: I’m not gonna quit smoking, Dave.

Yeah, I know, but you should try these. They’re good for the digestion, too.

FERN: Fine. Thanks.

What’s going on?

FERN: Ants. I’ve got ants.

Oh, ants. They’re okay.

FERN: No, they’re not. They’re in my food, Dave! I can do it. Thanks.

Where do you want this?


Oh… Fern, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I didn’t know that…

FERN: Go over there!

You don’t have to shout. Okay?

FERN: Stay over there.

I’m going.




FERN: No, we’re closed.



CAROL: You are one of those lucky people that is from the United States.

FERN: Of the US of A. Yes. Yes, I am.

And you can travel anywhere.

FERN: Yes, ma’am. I know.

And they sometimes call you nomads…

FERN: Yeah.

…or people who don’t have a home. I see that you have this ring.

FERN: Mmm‐hmm.

Are you married?

FERN: I am, but my husband died.

And so…

FERN: I’m not gonna take that off.

That ring is a circle.

FERN: Mmm‐hmm.

And it never ends. And that means that your love never ends. And you may not be able to take it off if you tried.

FERN: I don’t think I could.


FERN: Got a nice setup. The best one.


He has a case of diverticulitis. Which is inflammation of his intestines.

FERN: Uh‐huh.

So, earlier the surgeon went in and did a laparoscopic surgery.

FERN: He had surgery?

DAVE: Ooh, Cup Noodles.

FERN: Yeah. Well, it’s good for when you’re sick.


FERN: Animal crackers. And… for you. (CHUCKLES)

That’s my favorite.

FERN: I know.

Thanks, Fern. So, what are you gonna do next?

FERN: Uh, I’m gonna go to the beet harvest in Nebraska.

Uh, that doesn’t start till October.

FERN: How ’bout you?

I’m gonna start in at Wall Drug. Yeah, I did that last year. I can see if they have another opening.

FERN: For me?

Yeah. Got a great place to park.

FERN: Enjoy your kippers. Get better. Bye.


How’s it going?

FERN: Good, good, good. … One… … Hey, Michael!

MICHAEL: Hey! How’s it goin’?

FERN: Good. Can I take these tomatoes and onions?

MICHAEL: Yes. Absolutely.

FERN: Thank you.


FERN: I don’t like it.

One up over the right side there.

FERN: Okay. Please don’t let her face get near me. Oh, sheesh. Oh, my gosh.

TERRY: Isn’t she beautiful?


FERN: I’m kinda kidding, but I’m not, really. Oh, no. It’s really squeezing my arm a lot.

That’s me.

FERN: Okay.


FERN: Yeah! He didn’t get it. Oh, my God, look at how gross it is. Ew. No! Get out of there, Terry. Get out! Get out!

DAVE: He’s fine, Fern. Fern, he’s fine.

FERN: No, no. No, no.

DAVE: He’s fine, he’s fine.

Look. Just look.

FERN: What is it? What’s he feeding them? Oh!

Probably chicken or something like that.

FERN: No. It’s rabbits.

DAVE: Look at that. Look at that. Look at his eyes.

FERN: Yeah, yeah. He wants you. He wants you next.


FERN: You get in there. I don’t wanna be the one. He’s gonna come right through the glass.


FERN: Pack in, pack out.

I think they were actually this big.


BRAD: First thing we need to do is ask you to turn off your bright lights.

WOMAN: I can.

KID: Oh, it’s right there.

BRAD: Right, straight up, overhead. That’s the star, Vega. But it’s 24 light years away.

FERN: Wow.

MAN: Wow.

So what that means is the light that you’re looking at left Vega in 1987.



WOMAN: And it just got here?

And it just got here. So the telescope is set up on Jupiter. Jupiter is the largest planet in our entire solar system. Stars blow up, and they shoot plasma and atoms out into space. Sometimes land on Earth. Nourish the soil. They become part of you. So, hold out your right hand and look at a star.


BRAD: Because there are atoms from stars that blew up eons ago that landed on this planet, and now they’re in your hand.

MAN: Hi.

FERN: Hi. Sorry, we’re closed.

Uh… I’m looking for Dave. I’m his son, James.

FERN: He’s in the kitchen. Around the counter there.

That one?

FERN: Yeah.

JAMES: In Nashville, we recorded a record…

I got it. I got it. I got it.

I’ve been through here.

FERN: Oh, yeah?

A couple of times, yeah.

FERN: Huh.

This place, man. I don’t know why anybody would wanna live here.

FERN: Well, I can think of worse places.

You wanna know a good way to get to know a place?

FERN: What?

AA meetings.

FERN: Really?

I mean, for me. Back when I was with the band, and I was travelin’ around, I used to go to AA meetings everywhere. It was a great way to get to know people and to get to know a place.

FERN: How’s the burger?

Well, it’s not bad.

FERN: Yeah? He’s a good cook, your dad.

It’s not that hard to make a burger.

FERN: Cold.


DAVE: That’s his wife, Emily.

FERN: Oh, she’s cute. Hope she’s older than she looks.

DAVE: She’s gonna have a baby.

FERN: You’re gonna be a grandpa. When’s she due?

In two weeks, he said. He’s on his way home now. Asked me to come with him.

FERN: You should go.

DAVE: I was… I was, uh… He didn’t like it very much that I wasn’t around when he was… when he was young. I tried to be around when he was older, but he was into his thing, and I was into mine and I guess, I just forgot how to be a dad. Anyway, I wasn’t very good at it.

FERN: Don’t think about it too much, Dave. Just go. Be a grandfather.

DAVE: You wanna come with me?

FERN: Maybe I can visit sometime.

DAVE: Great.

FERN: ‘Night.

DAVE: ‘Night.






♪♪ It’s been many years since ♪♪

♪♪ I started out for that gold ♪♪

♪♪ Findin’ bits and pieces All worth their reach… ♪♪

♪♪ I’ve carried on ♪♪





FERN: Huh.



FERN: You made it, Swankie.

Thanks, man.

Then I’m gonna get the big G right here. For Georgia. And the big bulldog right here. It’ll be a full half sleeve for the Georgia Bulldogs.




FERN: (GRUNTS) Oh, Jesus!



MAN: No overnight parking. You can’t sleep here.

FERN: I’m leaving. I’m leaving.



Okay, what we’ve got is parts and labor, $2,300 and tax.

FERN: Okay.

JEREMY: I just looked up the value on your van. With that high a mileage, you’re lookin’ about $5,000 at the most.

I’d probably recommend, um, taking that money and putting it towards a different vehicle so that you…

FERN: No, no. Well, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. See, ’cause… All right. Um… I, uh, spent a lot of time and money building the inside out, and, um, a lot of people don’t understand the value of that. But it’s not somethin’, like, we can… (SIGHS) I live in there. It’s my home.

FERN (OVER THE PHONE): Why can’t you just wire it to me, Doll? I can pay you… I can… Dolly, listen, I can pay you back. I’m gonna do Amazon again soon. I’ll be able to pay you back as soon as I get that check. It’s gonna be… Yeah… I’m being stubborn? Well, I think you’re being a bitch.







Hi, Fern. The doorbell works.

FERN: Yeah, well, I didn’t hear it, so… Hey. (LAUGHS)

GEORGE: You want yours with cheese on it? All right.

FERN: Got my famous four‐egg cake.

All right.

FERN: Dolly talked me into it. Where do you want it?


FERN: Here?

Yeah, put it there, Fern.

FERN: Okay.

All right.

FERN: Ooh, that looks good.


FERN: I want that one.

All right, that’s yours. It’s got your name on it.

FERN: Double cheese, please.

You want cheese?

FERN: I want two slices, please.



DOLLY: Uh, this is my sister, Fern. Fern?

Hi, Fern. I’m Jim.

FERN: Hi. Sorry. Lime on my hand.

JIM: Nice to meet you. This is my wife, Pam.

FERN: Hi, Pam. Sorry, wet hand.

PAM: Hi.

DOLLY: Jim has been working with George for a long time.

Yeah, George actually sold us our first house before I got in real estate.

FERN: Did they tell you how they met?

JIM: No.

FERN: I introduced them.


FERN: I introduced you to George, but I knew George before. So, I took her out and I said, “Listen, um… George is a really good friend of mine. I don’t want you to mess this up. If you’re not serious about him, don’t mess with him.”

And I didn’t mess it up.

FERN: And you said, “What are you talkin’ about?” And so, how many years have you been together?

30 plus.

Worked out pretty good.

Yeah, worked out pretty good. I was able to take care of it on my own, actually, after that introduction.

FERN: You’re welcome.

NEIGHBOR PAUL: Things are looking good right now. The prices are goin’ up. 2012 was a winner. I mean, I wish I would have had the money in 2008 to buy everything, so I could sell it now. Seems like real estate always ends up on the upside.

FERN: I don’t wanna disagree with you, but I have to say I do. It’s strange that you encourage people to invest their whole life savings, go into debt, just to buy a house they can’t afford.

GEORGE: Fern, that’s a rather limited look at what we do.

FERN: Is it limited, George?

GEORGE: I mean, we’re not all in a position to just chuck everything and hit the road.

FERN: Oh, you think that’s what I’ve done, George? I chucked everything to hit the road? Is that what I did?

GEORGE: All right. I’m sorry.

You know, I think that, um, what the nomads are doing is not that different than what the pioneers did. I think Fern’s part of an American tradition. I think it’s great.

FERN: Hey.

Hi. … Here you go.

FERN: Okay. Yeah, thanks. You know I’ll pay you back, right?


FERN: I will.


Why don’t you move in with us?

FERN: I can’t live here. I can’t live in this room. I can’t sleep in this bed. Thank you, but I can’t…

I know, we’re not as interesting as the people you meet out there.

FERN: That’s not what I’m talkin’ about.

No, that’s what it is. It’s always what’s out there that’s more interesting. You left home as soon as you could, you married Bo after just knowing him a few months, and then you moved to the middle of nowhere with him. And then even after Bo passed away, you still stayed in Empire. I just didn’t get it. I mean, you could have left…

FERN: Yeah. See, that’s why I can’t come here.

I never said this to you before, and maybe I should have… You know, when you were growin’ up, you were eccentric to other people. You maybe seemed weird, but it was just because you were braver, and more honest than everybody else. And you could see me when I was hiding from everybody. And sometimes you could see me before I saw myself. I needed that in my life. And you’re my sister. I would have loved having you around all these years. You left a big hole by leaving.

(FERN, SOFTLY) That one’s on me.


FERN: Hey. Hi. Want a sandwich? You hungry?

I think I’ve met you before.

FERN: Yeah, I’m Fern. I was workin’ at T‐Rock in Quartzsite.


FERN: Mmm‐hmm.

You let Noodle sell his rocks there, didn’t you?

FERN: Yeah.

Would you like a beer?

FERN: Uh… Yeah, okay. I’ll trade you for a sandwich.

Well, here you go.

FERN: Thanks.

It’s cold, you know. You should sit down by the fire.

FERN: Got a little trouble with my knees, though. Can you help me?

Of course.

FERN: Thanks, man. Yeah, that’ll do it. Yeah.

All right.

FERN: Great. Thanks.

You gave me a light back in Quartzsite.

FERN: Mmm‐hmm. You still have it?

(LAUGHS) No, that’s long gone. But I do have this for ya. Want you to have it.

FERN: Thanks. It’s really beautiful. What is that? What’s that stone?

That there is dinosaur bone.

FERN: Really?

Uh, I think so. But I only know what they tell me. (CHUCKLES)

FERN: Where are your mom and dad?

Back home in Wisconsin.

FERN: You think they worry about you? You don’t get lonely? Got a girlfriend anywhere?

Well, to be truthful, well, there is one.

FERN: Mmm‐hmm.

She lives up in the North Country. Small farm. She’s happy with her life there. I… write letters to her.

FERN: Oh, smart man. Very good. Letters are good.

I just can’t ever write about anything I reckon she’d care about.

FERN: You ever try poems?

Can’t say I have. I don’t think I know a one. Do you know any?

FERN: How about one that I used for my wedding vow? When I was not much older than you.

Oh, right on. Mind if I hear it?

FERN: Okay. Let’s see if I can remember it. Um…

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

“Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.

“And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

“Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines.

“And often is his gold complexion dimmed.

“And every fair from fair sometimes declines.

“By chance or nature’s changing course undimmed.

“But thy eternal summer shall not fade.

“Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st.



“Nor shall death brag thou walkest in his shade.

“When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.

“So long as men can breathe and eyes can see.

“So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”







DAVE: Fern! Hey!




Hi. You made it.

FERN: Yeah.


Hey. Yeah. It’s nice.

FERN: Wow. Wow.

Well, hey. Come here. Come on in. I’ll get that.

FERN: Okay.

This is Emily, my daughter‐in‐law.

I’m Fern. So nice to meet you.

FERN: Hi. Welcome.

Hey, everybody.

Hey! There you are!

DAVE: This is Fern.

Hey. Hi, I’m Mike.


Nice to meet you.

FERN: Nice to meet you.

Welcome, welcome.

FERN: Thank you.

DAVE: And you know James.

FERN: Hi, James. How are you?

Hi. How are you? It’s nice to see you.

FERN: Thanks for having me. Who’s that? Is that the guy?

This is Damien.


He’s the guy.

FERN: Hi, Damien.

Say hi. … How’s your drive?

FERN: It was great. Little hairy on the end. That’s a scary road.

MIKE: In your van? I’ve heard about your van.

FERN: Yeah, yeah.

MIKE: I’d like to see it.

FERN: I’ll, uh, introduce you at some point. Thanks. Yeah.

MIKE: Okay.

MIKE: Where you comin’ from? That’s Peter.

PETER: Hey! Can I get you somethin’?

FERN: Uh, yeah. Water would be great. Thanks.

PETER: Great. Sure.


JAMES: Been on the road long?

FERN: Um… Yeah. I worked for a while, but I’ve been travelin’ since I last saw you, yeah.

All right, cool.

DAVE: Here you go.

FERN: Uh‐oh, uh‐oh.


Okay, I’ll give you to mommy.

FERN: You had a flat.

Did you eat something? Eat something? Huh?

FERN: You had a flat tire on your van, Dave.

Oh, okay. I hadn’t noticed.

FERN: ‘Cause you’re stayin’?


FERN: Good.

Yeah, I never expected to. Never thought I’d spend another night under a roof, but…

FERN: Well, this is a really nice place, Dave.

Yeah, you can stay.

FERN: Oh, good, thanks. I need to do laundry.


You know, I meant stay longer, Fern. They do have a guest house. I’m serious.

FERN: What’d they think about that?

I already asked them. I like you. You’re a good person. You… You get along with people for the most part. (CHUCKLES) You know… I like being around you.


I like being around you.


What’s up? What’s up? You don’t wanna be that way? You wanna be like this, don’t you? Yeah. Yeah.

♪♪ Sometimes you get a notion ♪♪

♪♪ To jump into the ocean ♪♪


Here. He might be getting a little tired. Here. I’ve gotta go to the kitchen.

FERN: Okay. Okay.

Just, just…

FERN: Don’t be gone long, Dave. Okay?




DAVE: …aren’t you?

(WHISTLES) Go ahead. Go ahead.

FERN: Come here. Come here.



FERN: Here they come. Look at all those. How many do you have?

DAVE: I don’t know how many we have.

FERN: That one’s beautiful. Look at those feathers. Hey. Where’s that little puffed one? I don’t want him sneakin’ up on me.

DAVE: Yeah.


EMILY: Thank you.

Can you give me some more stuffing…

Corn? …and a little corn?

What is that called?

DAVE: Thanks, Fern. That’s good.

FERN: Gravy?

DAVE: This turkey is so moist. This is incredible food. Thank you, Em. Thank you, James, and just wanna say a little somethin’. Uh… To welcome… To Fern.

ALL: Yeah. To this…

To this feast of a…

EMILY: Thanks!

…a feast of a family, and to the new one, and I guess the old ones, too, and everybody in between.


JAMES: Yeah. So, welcome, Fern.

EMILY: Welcome.

FERN: Thank you very much.

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving.


MIKE: Cheers, all.


Ah, the bells of Acrosanti.


That’s the problem. That’s the problem.

And they’re not… No, they’re terrible.



I like that name, Empire.

FERN: You know, we had an airport, public pool, a golf course.

Wow. Sounds nice. What was your house like there?

FERN: Nothing special. Just a company tract house. Actually, it was special. We were right on the edge of town. And our backyard looks out at this huge open space. It was just desert, desert, desert, all the way to the mountains. There was nothin’ in our way.

You know, I’m really glad you’re here. Dave really likes you.

FERN: Yeah?

Yeah. He talks about you a lot.

FERN: Hmm.











FERN: Happy New Year.


FERN: Happy New Year!


Because she loved rocks.

See you down the road, Swankie.

FERN: Bo never knew his parents and we never had kids. If I didn’t stay, if I left, it would be like he never existed. I couldn’t pack up and move on. He loved Empire. He loved his work so much. He loved being there. Everybody loved him. So I stayed. Same town, same house. It’s like my dad used to say, “What’s remembered lives.” I maybe spent too much of my life just remembering, Bob. (CHUCKLES) You know what I mean?

BOB: I can… I can relate. Um… I rarely ever talk about my son. But, uh, today would be… Today would be his 33rd birthday, and five years ago, he took his (SOBS) life. (CLEARS THROAT) And I can still barely say that in a sentence. And for a long time, every day was, uh… (CLEARS THROAT) The question was… how can I be alive on this Earth, when he’s not? And I didn’t have an answer. And those were some hard, hard days. But… (CLEARS THROAT) I realized that I could honor him by, uh, helping people, and serving people. It gives me a reason to go through the day. (CHUCKLES) Some days that’s all I’ve got. And out here, there’s a lot of people our age. Inevitably, there’s grief and loss. And a lot of ’em don’t get over it either. And that’s okay. That’s okay. 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. And I can look down the road and I can be certain in my heart that I’ll see my son again. You’ll see Bo again. And you can remember your lives together then.


MAN: Are you sure you don’t need any of this stuff?

FERN: No, don’t need any of it. I’m good. I’m not gonna miss one thing.

Well, we’ll see you later.





Dedicated to the ones who had to depart.

* * *

♪♪ It’s been many years since ♪♪

♪♪ I started out for that gold ♪♪

♪♪ Findin’ bits and pieces All worth their reach ♪♪

♪♪ I’ve carried on ♪♪

♪♪ Somewhere in the light ♪♪

♪♪ I followed my eyes and went alone ♪♪

♪♪ Ended up here with the fear, gripping a stone ♪♪

♪♪ Drifting away, I go ♪♪

♪♪ Driving down the highway ♪♪

♪♪ Roll down the window, watch it go ♪♪

♪♪ Listen to the secrets of my tires rolling down the road ♪♪

♪♪ Somewhere in the night ♪♪

♪♪ She knows that I’m all right when I’m alone ♪♪

♪♪ But everything breezing keep me company when I roll ♪♪

♪♪ Drifting away, I go ♪♪

♪♪ Driving all day ♪♪

♪♪ Driving all night ♪♪

♪♪ Drifting away, I go ♪♪

♪♪ Drifting away, I go ♪♪


1 thought on “Nomadland (2020) – Transcript”

  1. I have a Nomad cousin, she confirmed the reality of that lifestyle. She wrote “Like the character in the movie, Fern, I was born knowing that where the Sun comes up is my house and where I choose to lay my head on is its horizon at its setting is my home. It is the only real given”. Was this a Fern line and was my cousin just quoting it?

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