out of Five
Running time: 82
Superbly directed, brilliantly written and emotionally engaging drama with a terrific central performance from Michelle Williams.
What's it all about?
Director Kelly Reichardt's follow-up to art house hit Old Joy stars Michelle Williams as Wendy, a young woman with limited funds who's trying to make it to Alaska, with only her beloved dog Lucy for company. When Wendy's beaten-up old car breaks down in a backwater Oregon town, she decides to try and save some money by shoplifting some dog food, which promptly lands her in jail.
Returning to the supermarket several hours later, Wendy is horrified to discover that Lucy has disappeared and that no one has seen her. And as if that wasn't bad enough, her car needs to be repaired, meaning that she has nowhere to sleep for the night.
The script (by Reichardt and co-writer Jonathan Raymond) is excellent, refusing to delve into Wendy's back story and instead concentrating on her immediate situation. As such, you really empathise with her situation, where expensive car repairs could prove catastrophic and the lack of a phone or an address means she has no hope of getting a job.
Michelle Williams is terrific as Wendy and you'll be hard pressed not to have a lump in your throat when she's desperately calling for Lucy, or when she finally breaks down in a gas station bathroom after a frightening encounter. There's also strong support from Will Patton, as the mechanic, and from Wally Dalton, as a security guard who tries to help Wendy.
Reichardt's low key approach is remarkably effective (there's no music except for Wendy's occasional humming) and there are several simple, yet heartbreaking scenes, such as a slow pan along the cages in a dog pound. Similarly, Reichardt understands that a simple act of kindness from a stranger can be a powerfully emotional moment; as such, Wendy's relationship with the security guard is genuinely moving.
Wendy and Lucy is a small but perfectly formed gem of a film that demands to be seen. Don't miss it.