We watched the Oscar winner last night and I can verify we both woke up this morning depressed. That’s not to say don’t see it. It’s a very well done movie. A lot of that depression is personal as one story in it, by Bob Wells, had a personal resonance with us. But also, if you pare down to the essence of the movie, it’s about the refusal to care again about others because of fear of the inevitable pain of loss. Death is what I call a “no do-over” event that can never be changed. When it happens to someone you love, it stays with you forever and is extremely painful. It springs up at the strangest times and can also blunt happiness with a reminder of loss. Regret and sadness can shrivel life to the bare minimum or one can face it, incorporate it and give life more value.
The ending is a bit open-ending although one can assume by what she did, trying not to give away too much, she closed out that part of her life and was ready to insert herself among people again. But we can’t be sure of that, which is okay. Sometimes it’s good to have open endings. I will say our initial reaction was negative to the ending, but on reflection we felt some hope for a change as we reflected on what was shown and where it ended and her actions.
It’s a slow movie that grows on you over time. It feels like a documentary and actually most of the people in it are telling their own stories with Frances McDormand inserted as a character.
I don’t live out of a van, although I do spend time on the road living out of my vehicles—just traded in my 2012 Jeep Wrangler for a Gladiator so I’ll go from sleeping where the passenger seat was (no back seat) to the bed of the Gladiator. I do it for ease, to be able to go up into the mountains or take long Jeep-Abouts and not have to stop in motels or campground. One theme throughout was enjoying the beauty of nature. A place is not a person or a construct of man and is always there. Nature is not likely to hurt you, although there was one interesting scene in a park where she wandered off.
Most of the movie took place in the west and, as noted, there is a lot of BLM land there so living out of your vehicle is easier than here in the east. Nevertheless in my travels here I come across people living in vehicles in campgrounds and on the side of National Forest roads. There are those who’ve pitched their tent and you can tell from the huge pile of firewood they’re going to be there for a while. Another tell is the tarp over the tent. Campers don’t do that—squatters do. I don’t mean that in a negative way.
One thing that occasionally came up in the movie was that for many, living in a vehicle or a tent is not a choice—it is an economic reality. Those who have never been poor or lived among poor people often don’t understand that kind of life. I do grow disgusted when news pundits and politicians who were born with silver spoons in their mouth pontificate about things which they have no experience in.
One thing that surprised me was how little she cared about the vehicle she lived in. In a way, she couldn’t even really become attached to it, even though she was dependent on it. But that was the theme—caring opens one up to hurt. Protect yourself, even if it means hurting yourself and denying yourself. And, more importantly, denying others. For most of the movie, frankly, Frances character was extremely selfish. She didn’t seem to grasp that others might need her—not just the dog, but other humans. That she could be a plus in their lives and make their lives better. Our time, our most valuable asset which can never be gotten back, is what we offer. Early in our relationship I asked my wife what she though love was and she said “time”.
The movie was very well done, with most things very understated. When she didn’t take the dog offered and simply walked away from it, that was very telling. When she took the seat at the head of the table, after her friend had been in it during the dinner the night before, that was also very telling.
I was impressed with the number and array of jobs she held. I am always impressed when I see people working minimum wage or tip jobs, knowing how far behind economically their time invested makes them in our society. To argue about a minimum wage increase to an amount that still isn’t sufficient infuriates me. Especially as the rich grow richer. How much is enough?
Bottom line? Is it worth your time to watch? Yes. Because it will make you think about how we interact with nature and people and that is what life is about.