The story in Nebraska is knitted together through the theme of the ‘journey,’ a journey Woody and his youngest son David take together whether good or ill advised. I want to start by talking a little about each character and what I saw and felt.
The story takes place in a town in the Midwest. One of the main characters and father, is Woody, a man who seems to be suffering from either Dementia or Alzheimer’s. As we say in my counseling field, he has the power. When he speaks, they all listen and act according to his wishes, no matter what they are, from habit. His family knew he was not well mentally and continued to follow his wishes which turned dangerous at times. He kept running away because he had a flier which stated that he won a one million dollar pot and he believed it even though he had been told repeatedly by all members of his family that it was not true. He was going to collect the money. He was walking all the way even if he did not know exactly where he was going and that it was 600-800 hundreds miles away. He did not stop to think that he, an old man not well physically, could not walk 800 miles. He was not thinking, reasoning rationally. In his mind, he was walking the distance because he did not have a driver’s license, and the family would not take him to collect his money. he was lucid enough to know that he did not have a driver’s license; therefore, he could not drive. His whole fixation was that he won the money even though it was common knowledge those fliers were to entice people and were not true. Woody was driving his wife and sons crazy, running away and their having to chase him down and bring him back home. I saw Woody as a weak man. I felt he had always been a weak man and I will tell you later why. I saw a man with poor self-esteem and confidence, kind of a broken-down man. He was absorbed with this new idea about the money as if that would solve whatever problem was plaguing him, and this goes along with the symptoms of his illness. He only thought about himself and what he wanted without any thought to what his wife or children wanted. Of course with his illness, he would not have had that affect necessarily. We do not know much about his illness or whether it has been diagnosed. We just hear the family talking about it. Woody was quiet, a man of few words. I personally sensed a reticence, a passive aggressive personality, like he had been cheated by life. Later, I felt we found out what happened to Woody as the story progresses. He did not show any affection for his family, for his sons. His older son said at one point to his younger brother David, “He’s never given a shit about us.” That meant Woody was not close to his sons. Love seemed to have gone missing in Woody’s life. We do not know about his own parents, if they were loving people. When his son David asked him if he loved his mother when he married her, Woody answered quite frankly and without any hesitation, ‘It never came up’ with a cold and indifferent finality. He followed that statement with a vague conversation that love had nothing to do with it when they married. You have to remember that Woody was talking to his son David about David’s mother. Woody did not care how insulting and demeaning he sounded about his wife and did not care that his son knew it. Words simply spilled out of his mouth stating what he was thinking. David met Woody’s first girlfriend. She was running a family newspaper in town where Woody grew up. She said something to the effect that she lost Woody to David’s mother because she Emily did not let him get to the goods. During this journey Woody and David take, we learned a lot about Woody. There was a dryness, an emptiness, lovelessness, and hopelessness about his life. At this point in his life, his wife railed at him constantly. His one thought was to get the million dollars to buy a truck to leave to his sons, maybe to make up for his negligence of the boys. Maybe he felt the money would give him some importance, give some purpose or meaning to his life. I feel it was a part of his lack of self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, self- importance. He needed to leave something meaningful to his sons. He said so at the end of the film in his own way. It was hard to know what he was thinking because he did not speak much. We simply watched the actions of a man possessed who wanted to get that million dollar without a thought, plan or care for the people he hurt. He kept running away with no sense of time, distance or money that he would need during the trip. We found out later that Woody was a generous man who would give you the shirt off his back, a real contrast with the indifferent man of today. He finally talked David into taking him to collect his money. On this journey, they stopped at Woody’s brother’s home, and we met more interesting characters.
The movie is a wealth of interesting characters portraying all the evils of the world: greed, envy, jealousy, etc. Through this trip we really get to see his friends and family in their true colors.