Nostalgia

A mosaic of stories about love and loss that explores our relationship to objects, artifacts, and memories.

At a diner, middle-aged Daniel Kalman (John Ortiz), an insurance agent, remarks on the beauty of sentimental jewelry worn by a waitress. He then visits a Mr Ronald Ashemore (Bruce Dern), an elderly architect in his eighties living off pension. His visit is for the purpose of evaluating Ashemore’s possessions to satisfy granddaughter Bethany, and he’s able to determine that a few pieces are worth enough value for an appraiser to look at.

Kalman’s next visit is to Bethany (Amber Tamblyn) and her husband. Pregnant, she is overwhelmed with being the sole decision-maker due to living the closest, but she does care deeply about her grandfather and doesn’t wish to think of him dying. Back at the office Kalman studies the photographs he’s taken that day, contemplating the lives lived.

The next day, his work takes him to meet Helen Greer (Ellen Burstyn), whose home has been destroyed by wildfire. She laments how very little time she had to grab what keepsakes she could. She was able to save a signed baseball Kalman determines may have some value. They discuss things at a neighbor’s house over coffee with another couple who’ve also lost their home. Kalman remarks how he always learns something new from listening to people’s stories.

Helen stays with her son Henry (Nick Offerman) and his wife Lisa. Discussion to place her in assisted living is met with indignity, as is the thought of selling her stuff for cash before the insurance kicks in.

Helen flies to Las Vegas with a case containing the baseball to meet with an appraiser. She settles in to her hotel room, takes in some gambling and dines solo. After much emotional turmoil, she meets Will Beam (Jon Hamm) to determine its worth. It is an authentic item, he says, and the signature is that of Ted Williams. Normally, most things he sees are worth $10–20,000 but he tells her this feels like it may be $80–100,000. Helen is amazed. After they converse awhile, Helen is finally able to go of her husband’s priceless keepsake. Later, Will calls a potential buyer.

Will flies to his hometown in Virginia to meet older sister Donna (Catharine Keener). Will rides with Donna to their parents’ house to go through things. The house is for sale and their parents have recently moved to a condo in Florida. Will is more matter-of-fact regarding the heirlooms that the quiet house holds, while Donna expresses her teen daughter Tallie’s (Annalise Basso) sadness over losing the one place that holds so many memories. Will stays overnight in the barren house, while Donna drives back to her own home.

The next day, Tallie tries to joins them in sorting through keepsakes, but she is unable to connect with the many things that are older than she is. She leaves to join friend Kathleen (Mikey Madison) on a weekend trip. While disposing of many things into an onsite dumpster, Will comes across letters written by his own father, Will, to his mother, Joy, that expresses, among other things, deep love. Later he falls asleep to records playing soft jazz.

Will’s sleep is interrupted by a frantic phone call from Donna. A drunk driver has hit the car the two girls were driving in and killed Tallie. Donna’s husband Patrick (James LeGros) picks up Will, and they rush back to console a distraught Donna. Later, Kathleen’s parents, Peter (Patton Oswalt) & Marge (Joanna Going) come to console them as well.