Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A movie review: Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Director - Kelly Reichardt
Writer - Jonathan Raymond

Michelle Williams – Wendy
Will Patton – Mechanic
Wally Dalton – Security Guard

In a small, run-down town, somewhere in Oregon in some form of present day, is where we witness a few days in the life of Wendy (Michelle Williams). Travelling from Indiana, and most likely somewhere before that, and somewhere before that, she is making her way to Alaska. Her car has been running on life-support for some time, ever since a mechanic in another town told her it was only a matter of time, and it is at this point in time that it decides to make its final stand. Low on cash and in desperate need for a shower, Wendy finds herself being fingerprinted for shoplifting some dog food for Lucy, her travelling companion.

The film is a look into the life of Wendy as she waits out her car problems and searches for Lucy, who was no longer where she had been tied when Wendy was taken away in the back of a patrol car. It is also a look into the life of a girl who represents an often overlooked sect of our society – the young vagabond. Not conforming to the norms of society, she wants something else in life. For Wendy, something else is Alaska. For a few of the other travelers she meets briefly, it is leaving Alaska. There is no end to the journey of the Wendy’s of the world, only the journey itself.

An outdoor security guard (Wally Dalton) offers the only form of companionship and compassion to the distraught girl as she waits day after day for news of her lost friend. He offers her his cell phone and words of encouragement. Every day from 8-8 he stands there, one of the few jobs in the town to be had. He represents the inherent good in people, that something that you don’t always see in people, but you secretly hope it is there. His final gesture of good will is touching and sad, and it sums up the entire situation in which all the characters in this film find themselves.

Only one other character plays a role in this film, a mechanic (Will Patton) who is the bearer of bad news for Wendy as he gives her broken car the once-over. He represents much of what the security guard is not, but we find it hard to be angry with him. He seems to be a product of his environment.

Touching at times, Wendy and Lucy is the story of a girl searching for more than just her dog. Williams puts on a fantastic portrayal of a competent, yet struggling young American just trying to find some meaning in life, whether it be through her dog or thousands of miles away in Alaska, and her lonely countenance in many scenes and voice of despair in a brief call home really will stick with me for some time. With slow movement and little action, the film will not be for all tastes, but for those who enjoy a character piece with social implications (though hardly preachy) this film might just be an overlooked gem in the rough.


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