Directors do not use to be take on the road a movie to explain everything they want. Alexander Payne does it. We've seen road trips in many films but this one is the best road trip ever because it is a story about feelings and that trip is a trip into the interior of a man and to the heart of a family. One of the most known spanish books is "Don Quijote" by Miguel Cervantes. This film is actually a trip - like Quijote's - around a part of the USA but also inside the individuals, especially of one of them Woody Grant.
That man Woody (Bruce Dern) is an aged, senile old man and father to two sons married to a good woman (June Squibb) tired of his lunacy. Woody believes he has won 1 million dollars and wants to redeem his prize. The thing is, the place where he is supposedly going to be awarded, is in another state, Nebraska. As any member of his family wants to take him 1.500 miles away from his home, the man goes walking until the time someone (police, neighbor....) finds him and takes him back home.
One of his sons, David, decides to take him on that mentioned road trip to end his craziness about that false prize. This is going to be the start of a love story between a father and his sons that is not explained with words or even with gestures... it is more like a diluted love story that you see that is being shown with some acts and situations.
The good thing about that film is also that we can see many kinds of love and situations where's there's no love - from the fraternal love to the love of an old girlfriend. But what's interesting is that when some people learn that Woody is going to become a "millionaire" they change their kind words or passiveness and start asking for money for things - they think - they deserve. The end could be seen as a happy ending at first but it really changes your perception when you see the whole film. It is a great end, because sometimes we just need some, material, things to make us happy.
At first you could think it is a slow movie with nearly no action, because in fact it is, everything - black and white, not a lot of dialogue ....- is thought to transmit sadness, tiredness to the viewers. But on one of the stops of the trip we can see the profound america, where the secondary characters appear and provide occasional comedic scenes. One of those secondary characters is Woody's wife, who complains for everything about Woody and talks more that she should. June Squibb is amazing as Dern's character's wife. Dern offers a wonderful performance with nearly no dialogue and with a lot of gestures, specifically, facial gestures. As for the story it is an odyssey of an old man with his son (Will Forte also does a very remarkable performance) that does not end up being totally happy. It is more real, because life is not happy or sad, most of the time (always) it is a combination of both.