Friday, April 3, 2009

Film review: Wendy And Lucy

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Michelle Williams, Walter Dalton, Will Patton
Country: USA

"I'm heading for Alaska, I hear they need people up there" Wendy

Filmed in August 2007 and making its debut at Cannes the following May, Wendy And Lucy has taken a long journey to get their story told. Yet this slice of life on the edge of society could hardly be more pertinent than it is today.

Director Kelly Reichardt replicates the subtle meditation of her last feature Old Joy (2006) and here combines it with something akin to the harsh reality of existence within the mundane and the disquieting amputation of margin for error. The result is a simple, elegant and affecting tale about a young girl who becomes stranded in a small Oregon town of the Northwest United States on her way to Alaska.

Michelle Williams plays the eponymous Wendy whilst Lucy is her canine companion, a gorgeous yellow mutt with more charisma in her few short scenes than most of 2009’s class of leading actors. Williams does some of her best ever work here as this delicate girl, with short brown hair and a pale complexion who manages to convey simultaneously a sense of browbeat stoicism and unflinching vulnerability.

With just 525 bucks left in her budget Wendy hits a streak of bad luck that snowballs as these things have a habit of doing when you think you’re at your lowest ebb. After her car breaks down, leaving her stranded in this tired washed-up town, one thing leading to another Wendy gets caught shoplifting dog food, arrested and loses Lucy. The young drifter finds herself contending not only with the loss of her companion but also the financial implications resulting from being arrested and the repairs to her crapped out Honda.

Reichardt explores small acts of kindness and the limits of generousity in her quiet disconnected observations of Wendy’s struggles. Like the local rent-a-cop who watches Wendy’s strife we witness from a distance as she searches everywhere for Lucy, following the dreariness of uncertainty and impending disaster that hangs over her precarious circumstance.

Even if you’ve never been in a situation where you find yourself holding onto to the best-case scenario despite knowing the worst is inevitable, you can imagine the fear that must grip Wendy’s fragile existence. Some will question how did she got herself into such a mess, others wonder what they would do in her shoes or if they would have helped her. These are the questions that Reichardt is dangles while Williams portrayal demands consideration.

At 80 minutes Wendy And Lucy is a snapshot, a perfectly balanced tale of a lost soul daydreaming their way to what is hoped a better place. The resolution is open-ended but you’d better believe this is a story that will reside meaningfully in your heart for a long time after.

Scott Henderson

This review first appeared in 3D World


ms_monk said...

i will see this now, thanks to your nicely crafted pitch mr henderson. :)