Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Starring: Michelle Williams, Wally Dalton, Lucy the Dog

Michelle Williams gives a heartbreaking and close to home for many performance in Wendy and Lucy, a simple and to-the-point film featuring a woman searching for a better life for her and her dog, Lucy, her only form of comfort. Reichardt creates a realistic and touching depiction of what it’s like to clench onto every dollar you have and by the end, will probably make you want to hug your dog close to you and never let go.

Plot: Wendy (Williams) has traveled across country until her car breaks down in some small town in Oregon. Plans to drive to Alaska where she hears jobs are abundant are foiled as she is stranded with a small amount of money and little prospect of getting a job. After being briefly arrested for attempting to steal from a grocery store, her dog, Lucy, becomes lost. With the help of a kind security guard she comes across (Dalton), Wendy starts the search for her dog, the only source of happiness she has.

Wendy and Lucy says a lot without really saying anything at all. There isn’t much going on in the movie itself. We get next to no background information on our main character, and really very little information about anything in general. We mostly observe Wendy. We observe her walking and walking and walking. To the store, to the pound, to the auto shop. This is where Michelle Williams gives a wonderful performance. We aren’t told anything about her, but just by watching her actions, her face, and her emotions, we know everything about her. She is a woman that many people can empathize with because she is a woman that has been dealt a bad hand in life. She probably had an actual life somewhere once but now she resorts to traveling thousands of miles to find a job and money. She is a woman who is barely, I mean barely, scraping by and is really just looking for something better.

The relationship between her and her dog is what fuels the movie emotionally. Her only friend, Lucy has been there for her. Even during this hard and unfortunate time, Lucy is there giving Wendy the happiness she needs to keep hopeful. Especially if you are a dog lover, you can’t help but feel the same panic and sadness as Wendy does as she goes on the search for her missing friend. I won’t spoil the ending but it beautifully concluded what had to happen for the movie to have an emotional impact and for it to pass as something someone can truly relate to. Although the title is Wendy and Lucy, it’s not supposed to be just about them, it’s supposed to be about anyone.

I’ve never seen any of Reichardt’s other films but her approach is almost documentary-like. She films the movie as if we are watching this really happen, with a certain honesty and intimacy. Less is more with Wendy and Lucy as it is its simplicity that creates this atmosphere for us. It’s Williams who truly elevates the movie to what it was made to be, though. She was the perfect choice and you have to applaud her for taking such a seemingly bland role. Wearing only plain brown shorts, a loose flannel, a hoodie, and sporting a disheveled and perfectly common haircut, she isn’t meant to really stick out to you. She doesn’t need to, because with the help of Williams’ performance, this is a character we are already familiar with.

Conclusion: There is no embellishing or building up of this story. It is what it is. It’s beautifully simply and yet amazingly full of emotion. It goes much deeper than just the relationship between a girl and her dog. It’s much more than that. The film’s honesty is both sad and refreshing. Michelle Williams is great in the lead role and makes us feel close to this character who might as well be a stranger to us with the lack of information we are actually given about her. It’s these types of small, indie films that remind us what film is all about. That by watching a simple film like this we are comforted that the human experience, though unique for each individual, is a shared one.

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