In Nomadland, Chloe Zhao’s vividly somber and heartfelt neo-western drama adapted from Jessica Bruder’s eponymous nonfiction book, Fern (Frances McDormand) struggles to find her place on the open roads of the contemporary American west. Having lost her husband who recently died and her home when the local plant closes in her small Nevada town, Fern sells off her possessions and sets off in her van in search of work. A series of temporary jobs put her in touch with a loose community of nomadic travelers, espousing a disconnect from typical American life. Zhao’s story is both subtle and consequential, with cinematography composed of the sweeping western landscapes mixed with the mundane tasks of temporary labor that make up Fern’s daily life. Loss and instability pervade the film, both in Fern’s grief over her husband, and the unmooring of the collapse of her previous life in a boom-and-bust Nevada town, and the temporary relationships that develop in her travels. Fern’s interactions with other nomads—with several appearances by the actual nomads described in Bruder’s book playing fictionalized versions of themselves—are fleeting but poignant, sharing moments of grace as they briefly cross paths and continue on down the road in search of fulfillment.