Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Dir. Kelly Reichardt
Starring: Michelle Williams

I recommend this to Penny, Grace, Mitchell, Chris and Tony. (I would included Kevin, too, but I saw it with him; I’d guess he liked it.) You could watch this on dvd, but if it were out in theaters, I’d say it’s worth paying to see. I’d cautiously recommend this to Marc, John, Don and Jill, especially since they might find it too slow. (The others may find it slow, too.) I don’t think Joel would like this. Larri gave it 5/10. I knew nothing about the film except the metacritic score (80), the title and the length (80 minutes) and the director made the critically acclaimed film Old Joy(?). It would have a good chance of cracking my top ten of 2008.

The film has a very basic plot: a young woman, Wendy (Williams) is traveling with her dog, Lucy (the main reason Don would have a chance of liking this) from Indiana to Alaska, where she hopes to get work. This is a film that doesn’t spell everything out; that requires the viewer to fill in the blanks–and that’s a good thing.

This movie took a while to get going for me–the pacing is definitely deliberate and sometimes slow. But this pacing has a purpose, namely it gives the film a realistic and quiet feeling lending more impact to the some of the dramatic situations. And there are some dramatic, and even slightly suspenseful moments, in the film. Every person that Wendy meets, you never know if that person will be a nice or a jerk (especially the men). This creates both at least a mild suspense and interest in what’s happening. The drama turns up even more when Wendy loses her dog, her closest companion. (The dog is well-cast as he’s/she’s definitely a cutey.)

What’s cool about the film is the way it strips down the character–she loses her car, her best friend, money–in a way that heightens little occurrences, occurrences that people of more able means are oblivious, too. For example, the security guard’s letting her use the cell phone, words of encouragement and ultimately giving her some money, were really touching. (The fact that the amount is so little is even more touching in a way as the security guard most likely doesn’t have a lot of money.) These gestures are significant because she has so little and is facing really trying circumstances. Friendship–even from a dog–really matters for someone like her, too, and its the importance that adds to the drama of the film.

Finally, I liked the way Alaska represented hope in the film, that thing people look forward to which allows them to endure the trying circumstances that come their way. I saw this at the Academy of Arts and there was a discussion afterwards. The moderator asked if the audience felt like she made it to Alaska or not and people gave their comments. I thought whether she made it or not was besides the point. The image of her leaving for Alaska, to me, meant that she–like many of us–have a dream that keeps us going; that allows us to survive. I don’t think the film needed to say much more than that.

1 Response to “Wendy and Lucy (2008)”

  1. pen

    This is one of those quiet movies that make quite an impact. For the most part, the movie focuses on a girl, her dog and her dreams and the circumstances she finds herself in…but it really invites you to see beyond that. Not quite “to the human condition” kind of thing, but the movie easily lends itself to bigger, more global topics without being preachy about it. Perhaps there was a minor moment of “expository commentary,” but it is easily forgiven considering the light, deft touch of the writer and director for the rest of the movie.

    While not quite “Uylee’s Gold” kind of pacing, it does tend to saunter, shuffle, then run at different times in the film. Mostly a saunter, though. There is movement in a particular direction; so it doesn’t feel like meandering.

    I didn’t cry, but I probably would have if I had seen it in the theatre and not on my parents’ computer. Good film for discussion.

    Michelle Williams does a great job and I felt for her the entire movie.

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