Going Nomad, writer-director Art Jones’s low-budget ode to the nighttime streets of Manhattan, tries to get some mileage from one simple observation: people who have trouble sleeping often get in their cars and drive. While this isn’t exactly a news flash (the Sunday Times City section did a typically overblown article on the subject last year, in which Jones figured prominently), the existential implications of a midnight
driving habit obviously had dramatic possibilities.
Unfortunately, few of them are realized in this pleasant but rather dull comedy.
Nomad follows the nocturnal nonadventures of one El Cid Rivera (Damian Young, who maintains a likable deadpan throughout), a thirtysomething slacker Latin-from-Manhattan whose basic deviation from amalgamated type is an inability to speak Spanish. (The outlandish moniker seems to exist only to prompt jokey Charlton Heston riffs.) Getting together every night with a band of one-note childhood buds for brews, El Cid finds his true (and only) joy while hitting quiet streets in his gas-guzzling, eight-cylinder “land boat,” our hero brooding in voiceover while in search of the perfect ride, uninterrupted by stoplights.
There’s a diverting love interest for El Cid, a borderline-dominatrix lady cop, and some purportedly life-altering suspense over his application to the Fire Department, but not much else happens; the plot tailgates the slow rides to nowhere that provide the film with its foundational conceit. Nomad does get some conceptual juice from a series of recurring monologues— poetic waxings from other asphalt junkies about the city, the road, the night, et cetera; the high-minded talk is eloquent, but it finds no reflection image-wise. Although El Cid’s driving is presented as a kind of calling and art form, Nomad doesn’t have much of an appreciation for physical space or automotive flow, first-time writer Jones penning car-centric dialogue and description that first-time director Jones can’t convey visually beyond endless, static shots of El Cid behind the wheel. Ultimately, Going Nomad should provide Jones with an industry calling card, but that doesn’t mean any paying customers will want to ride with him for very long.