Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy

***1/2

 

“Wendy and Lucy” is the exact opposite of “The Watchmen.”

“The Watchmen” is a big budget, big action Hollywood picture with a labyrinthine plot, a large cast of characters, and little to say about the real world.

In direct contrast, “Wendy and Lucy” is a tiny independent film made for peanuts that features just two characters worth noting and no action whatsoever. However, “Wendy and Lucy” has a lot to say about the state of the modern world.

Without irresponsibly blaming anyone for what happened (take a note, Jon Stewart), “Wendy and Lucy” argues that the American dream has been destroyed. Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a bright, decent young woman who is willing and able to work. But instead of giving her an opportunity, small town America quickly robs her of everything she has.

When we meet Wendy, she is crossing the continent in an ’88 Honda Accord with her dog Lucy. The ultimate destination is Alaska, where Wendy hopes to find work in the fishing industry.

Somewhere in Oregon, the car breaks down. Then Wendy loses Lucy. In a few unfortunate days, our heroine goes from life on the road to life on the brink.

Wendy quickly learns some basic truths about contemporary America. Without an address, a cell phone, a credit card, or a working vehicle, a person may as well not even exist in the eyes of society. Improving your lot in life may be an impossible goal, and even daily survival is a challenge.

Writer/director Kelly Reichardt has a subtle touch as a filmmaker. She effectively communicates the terrible loneliness and boredom of Wendy’s condition without boring us with too many scenes of her sitting around waiting.

And Reichardt successfully communicates the danger that a young woman faces on her own in the world without resorting to any violence or melodrama.

An important lesson that the film teaches is that it is incredibly unwise to go off into the unknown by yourself, because you cannot rely on the kindness of strangers. I kept thinking that Wendy’s predicament would have been infinitely safer and more bearable if she had a trusted loved one by her side.

“Wendy and Lucy” is remarkable both for its restraint and its realism. It is effortlessly entertaining and impressively insightful. I absolutely recommend it.

 

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