Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA, 2008)
Wendy and Lucy is a beautiful, moving film. We are lucky to have the opportunity to see a film of this calibre outside of a festival. On the strength of Kelly Reichardt’s sublime Old Joy, I’d been anticipating its release since MIFF nearly a year ago and it doesn’t disappoint.
In a sense, Kelly Reichardt subverts the film-making process. She not only demonstrates that money need not be an obstacle to telling a compelling story, but that there is a story to be told in the most everyday of situations. Wendy and Lucy is the story of a young woman and her dog. En route to Alaska in search of a job, Wendy’s car breaks down and is subsequently separated from her dog, Lucy.
The film captures with great emotional impact, the struggles of Wendy to deal with the situations she finds herself in. Small, seemingly innocuous actions have major ramifications. People can be harsh, indifferent or unexpectedly kind and the film captures the nuances of these different aspects with warmth and compassion for the characters.
Wendy is living on the margins of society. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot separating her from a lucrative job up north, homelessness, jail or mental illness. For you and I, we may not think twice about say, buying a coffee. For Wendy, however, every penny counts.
Michelle Williams is in virtually every shot and really shines, though there’s nothing grandstanding about her role at all. Rather, it’s a nuanced performance with minimal dialogue, where her increasingly dire situation is deduced by her budgeting notes and unexpected expenses. Walter Dalton performance as a shopping mall security guard is also excellent. As an aside I noticed with some interest that Gabe Nevins, who plays the lead character in Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, has a small incidental role.
The film’s visuals are gorgeous, not dissimilar to Old Joy. As an amateur photographer, I appreciate Kelly’s observational style and framing. She uses static shots frequently, interspersed with tracking shots, a mix that is aesthetically very pleasing and subtly adds to the story-telling.
On a superficial level there’s not a whole lot happening in Wendy and Lucy. Deeper though, there’s much to experience and relish, and words don’t do it justice. It just has to be seen. Highly recommended.
Wendy and Lucy opens this Thursday and is screening exclusively at the Nova.