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December 7, 2013

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


Filming entirely in black and white may seem like a trite decision to entice critics but there actually is merit in not having any colour. Nebraska isn’t the bright and beautiful spectacle that we may expect from blockbusters like Avatar or Man of Steel. Instead we have a very touching father-son relationship about growing old and dealing with life, so the stylistic choice is quite fitting because the script is tightly written and the acting is stupendous across the board.

The film opens with Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) walking along a busy highway in the general direction of Nebraska where he hopes to cash in a ‘cheque’ in the mail telling him he has won a million dollars. Woody unfortunately has a failing memory and drinking problem. His son and wife are unable to convince Woody of the obvious scam and instead of destroying the cheque, Woody’s son David (Will Forte) decides to go with him on a road trip stopping off at their old family home along the way. David sees it as a way to get the idea out of his father’s system while his mother (June Squibb) chastises them both for being delusional before joining the trip when they stop off at their old home. David’s older brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) who’s recently turned into local TV news anchor hence igniting inevitable jealousy, reaches them there as well, creating a family trip down memory lane as they ponder over old friends and family that are either dead or you wish they were.


There is a lot of light-hearted humour, especially when the family meet their slack-jawed cousins who also believe that Woody is about to win a million dollars, causing the nasty part of the family to show itself. This is shown clearly when Woody’s ‘friend’ Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach) asks for some money he’s owed, closely followed by a long line of other debtors. David tries his best to avoid people taking advantage of his father’s failing memory, but it’s his mother who delivers the best defence of Woody in one fantastic screaming match deserving of applause. Around the town familiar faces show themselves and congratulate Woody, others deliver secrets about Woody’s past that David was never aware of. The film pulls on heartstrings but knows when to stop pulling and return to the story.

As a drama Nebraska excels in telling a story that is very touching and character driven. Bruce Dern was deservedly awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of an elderly man who wants to be somebody. Will Forte is also convincing as his son who is out of touch with both his father and his own goals. Both weave a heart-warming tale as they make their way to Nebraska. Focusing more on the tragicomedy that life is, this film shows that great cinema doesn’t have to rely on spectacular visuals to create a compelling story with bright and memorable characters.

Nebraska premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and it’s out now in UK cinemas.

Sunny Ramgolam