Some people, most notably Roger Ebert, seemed to love this film, but I didn't really get it at all. I guess I could understand what the director/screenwriter were trying to create, but it just didn't work for me. The premise is that of a woman in her mid thirties travelling through the midwest with her young son to start her life over after her husband is killed in a car accident. The idea is nice, but for all it is, it's a bit boring and meaningless. The relationship between Ellen Burstyn and her son is quite good at times, but the story doesn't seem to lead anywhere. Sometimes that's okay in a film, but not so much here. It's funny at times, and at others endearing, but it ends without any great revelation and that disappointed me.
Ellen Burstyn is very good in this though, she is a fine actress and probably deserved the Academy Award she won. Harvey Keitel is in it for a brief period, in a rather strange and creepy role in which he seemed miscast.
As I go through Scorsese's filmography, I imagine I will consider this to be one of his weaker films. The film was well received, but I don't know why really, other than Burstyn's performance. Some characters just seemed unnecessary, especially one of the waitresses in the restaurant. She was intended (I assume) to provide comic relief, but she was just too weird.
The whole point of this film seemed to be for this woman to achieve some deeper meaning in her life after the death of her husband, but by the end of it, and this is a bit of a spoiler, she is still working in the same crappy restaurant, with no real friends, little money, and a boyfriend who once hit her son. To me she's as lonely as she ever was, and nothing much has been achieved.