Wendy and Lucy (15)

Film

Drama

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Mar 3 2009

‘If a person can’t afford dog food, then they shouldn’t have a dog,’ snaps a preppy store clerk to Wendy (Michelle Williams) after catching her stealing food for her beloved yellow-gold retriever, Lucy. The clerk’s sentiment captures the debate at the heart of this brilliant, desperately sad Steinbeckian fable from American director Kelly Reichardt. It’s Reichardt’s third full-length feature (‘Old Joy’ was in cinemas last year), but only her first masterpiece.

In the film’s opening seconds, Wendy and Lucy’s energising mutual dependence is writ large with a remarkable, inconspicuous tracking shot that captures the pair frolicking through a woodland glade, setting the perfect tone for the heartbreaking minimalist weepie that lies ahead. Wendy is our heroine, a waifish tomboy on a journey up north where she hopes to find work in an Alaskan fish cannery. She’s a whisker away from financial penury when her minutely orchestrated plans go seriously awry and she loses her adored mutt during a prolonged stopover in the sleepy mill town of Williamsville, Oregon. As the quest to recover Lucy takes up the bulk of the story, a threat of loneliness and destitution bubbles frenetically beneath its stoical façade. Reichardt is interested in exploring the domino effect of a plummet into insolvency and the idea that existing on meagre budgets calls for extreme prudence, prioritising and, often, sacrifice.

Stylistically uncomplicated and admirable in both its honesty and the terseness of its storytelling, the film manages that rare feat of being both remarkably prescient and modest at the same time. Steering clear of the lefty sermonising that crept into ‘Old Joy’, Reichardt and co-writer Jon Raymond employ a sincere and discreet depiction of life on the fringe, be it through the kindly mutterings of a pension-age security guard (Wally Dalton), or the person of a small-time mechanic (Will Patton) who can’t cut Wendy a deal for her broken-down car without risking his quality of life.

The story, too, is never over-egged with superfluous plot, dialogue or imagery and every minutely judged frame oozes gently with detail and emotion.The feather-light enhancements that Reichardt does add via the photography (DoP Sam Levy’s elegant framing of Wendy in the deserted Northwestern streets) and sound design (the constant clatter and wail of passing trains which act as both a surrogate release for Wendy’s pent-up despair and a constant call for her to continue with her journey) work wonders in proliferating the hushed desperation on screen.

The film it most resembles is De Sica’s neo-realist landmark, ‘Umberto D’ (without the craven sentimentality and doggie anthropomorphism), but ‘Wendy and Lucy’ also contains thematic overlaps with many other great movies, such as the starkness and instability of communal life in Altman’s ‘McCabe and Mrs Miller’, the muted despair in the Dardennes’s ‘Rosetta’ and the austere, heart-wrenching poetry of Kiarostami’s ‘Where Is the Friend’s House?’.

But central to it all is Michelle Williams’s beautifully restrained and humane performance (her best by some stretch) which embodies the pent-up frustrations, doubts, fears and dilemmas that this lonely soul has been burdened with. Her nuanced and naturalistic delivery wrings poignant truth from the realities of Wendy’s struggle for perseverance and dignity, where every decision is crucial, and every futile cry of ‘Lucy!’ stabs directly at the heart. It’s what makes this film the small miracle that it is.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Mar 6, 2009

Duration:

80 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|28
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Technoguy

She is a drifter with a dog in a car from Indiana heading for Alaskan work whose car breaks down in Wilsonville, Oregon. She gets done for shoplifting and loses her dog. She sleeps rough when not in her car. She carefully budgets what money she has left, about $500. She has two main contacts here, the mechanic(Will Patton) and the elderly guard who watches the car park at the store back..The story is sensitively rendered and Wendy is an undemonstrative, goodly soul who’s family are portrayed as indifferent to her plight when she calls them.Her relationship with her dog Lucy is the closest she has. We see them in various scenes in the woods or in town together. This performance by Michelle Williams shows the fragility of character, is subtle and understated. She finds the limits of the world she lives in between the poles of the uppity store clerk who thinks she should be made an example of(he wears a cross) and the kindly old guard(Walter Dalton)who loans her his mobile to call the dog pound . This is a story about the marginalised, unemployed without home or job whose identity is almost non-existent and is dependent upon the kindness of strangers. There are scenes of moving stock and train carriages,winding railway lines and shots of graffiti on the sides of buildings with finely restrained cinematography. Her car is too expensive to fix and she finds her dog has been adopted by a good person with a yard. She realizes she has to make sacrifices. This film has the barest of outlines of a plot and the majority of it occurs stranded in a small north western Pacific town where there are no jobs. Williams underplays to bring out the reality of the world she inhabits. Although I found it strange for a young girl travelling in a car without a mobile phone I believed in her character. Reichardt has taken a leaf out of Rosetta and Not One Less, world films of grim realism that work on a thin trail of hope and exploration. Thank God Hollywood didn’t get hold of this:pumped-up scenario,sex and sentimentality. A good indie film.

Technoguy

She is a drifter with a dog in a car from Indiana heading for Alaskan work whose car breaks down in Wilsonville, Oregon. She gets done for shoplifting and loses her dog. She sleeps rough when not in her car. She carefully budgets what money she has left, about $500. She has two main contacts here, the mechanic(Will Patton) and the elderly guard who watches the car park at the store back..The story is sensitively rendered and Wendy is an undemonstrative, goodly soul who’s family are portrayed as indifferent to her plight when she calls them.Her relationship with her dog Lucy is the closest she has. We see them in various scenes in the woods or in town together. This performance by Michelle Williams shows the fragility of character, is subtle and understated. She finds the limits of the world she lives in between the poles of the uppity store clerk who thinks she should be made an example of(he wears a cross) and the kindly old guard(Walter Dalton)who loans her his mobile to call the dog pound . This is a story about the marginalised, unemployed without home or job whose identity is almost non-existent and is dependent upon the kindness of strangers. There are scenes of moving stock and train carriages,winding railway lines and shots of graffiti on the sides of buildings with finely restrained cinematography. Her car is too expensive to fix and she finds her dog has been adopted by a good person with a yard. She realizes she has to make sacrifices. This film has the barest of outlines of a plot and the majority of it occurs stranded in a small north western Pacific town where there are no jobs. Williams underplays to bring out the reality of the world she inhabits. Although I found it strange for a young girl travelling in a car without a mobile phone I believed in her character. Reichardt has taken a leaf out of Rosetta and Not One Less, world films of grim realism that work on a thin trail of hope and exploration. Thank God Hollywood didn’t get hold of this:pumped-up scenario,sex and sentimentality. A good indie film.

Jason M

I too was somewhat surprised by the rating. Time Out however is nevertheless correct that this is an understated masterpiece. We think we know the story, but we are talking about the twenty first century, not the times Steinbeck lived through. It’s as influential too. Shouldn’t we give the benefit of the doubt and to over-the-hill busker or young begger and not always blame ineptitude or drug dependence for their lot? Lingering questions are savoured after seeing this film. Did the affable security guard keep his generosity restrained from the young girl who was obviously sleeping rough, or for him, was the five dollars a princely sum for him to give? I think for the cinematography alone, not to mention the depth of meaning, this film will be studied in years to come. Along with Gran Torino, it comes with a sense of foreboding about economic and social decay in the West which leads to another question, does it always go like this? Maybe so, but the film lets you see for yourself that there is something to be said for being more generous, helping out a bit more and perhaps planting some flowers along the cracked sidewalk.

Jason M

I too was somewhat surprised by the rating. Time Out however is nevertheless correct that this is an understated masterpiece. We think we know the story, but we are talking about the twenty first century, not the times Steinbeck lived through. It’s as influential too. Shouldn’t we give the benefit of the doubt and to over-the-hill busker or young begger and not always blame ineptitude or drug dependence for their lot? Lingering questions are savoured after seeing this film. Did the affable security guard keep his generosity restrained from the young girl who was obviously sleeping rough, or for him, was the five dollars a princely sum for him to give? I think for the cinematography alone, not to mention the depth of meaning, this film will be studied in years to come. Along with Gran Torino, it comes with a sense of foreboding about economic and social decay in the West which leads to another question, does it always go like this? Maybe so, but the film lets you see for yourself that there is something to be said for being more generous, helping out a bit more and perhaps planting some flowers along the cracked sidewalk.

Paul

While my expectations had been hyped up by the 6 star rating and felt a little disappointed, it was still at least a 4 star and a wonderfully shot film. It does leave you feeling ready for random acts of kindness and and softened my hard heart a little. The critique of society being restrictive and comparison to Of Mice and Men is spot on

Paul

While my expectations had been hyped up by the 6 star rating and felt a little disappointed, it was still at least a 4 star and a wonderfully shot film. It does leave you feeling ready for random acts of kindness and and softened my hard heart a little. The critique of society being restrictive and comparison to Of Mice and Men is spot on

lenatea

with my expectations of a 6* film i left feeling a tad disapointed giving it a good 3*.

lenatea

with my expectations of a 6* film i left feeling a tad disapointed giving it a good 3*.

hometime

I thought the movie was wonderful. These folks who keep saying 'it felt like 2 hours long' why didn't they just leave the cinema if they thought it was that boring? having left the cinema they could have gone shopping and purchased a Peter Kay DVD.

hometime

I thought the movie was wonderful. These folks who keep saying 'it felt like 2 hours long' why didn't they just leave the cinema if they thought it was that boring? having left the cinema they could have gone shopping and purchased a Peter Kay DVD.

AS

Agree 111% with Milan "i say, it's an 80 min long film that feels like 2 hours, and which should have been a 10 minute short. "

AS

Agree 111% with Milan "i say, it's an 80 min long film that feels like 2 hours, and which should have been a 10 minute short. "

Milan

"...a threat of loneliness and destitution bubbles frenetically beneath its stoical façade." "Stylistically uncomplicated and admirable in both its honesty and the terseness of its storytelling, the film manages that rare feat of being both remarkably prescient and modest at the same time." i say, it's an 80 min long film that feels like 2 hours, and which should have been a 10 minute short.

Milan

"...a threat of loneliness and destitution bubbles frenetically beneath its stoical façade." "Stylistically uncomplicated and admirable in both its honesty and the terseness of its storytelling, the film manages that rare feat of being both remarkably prescient and modest at the same time." i say, it's an 80 min long film that feels like 2 hours, and which should have been a 10 minute short.

al

A mini masterpiece. An excellent example of understated filmmaking which keeps it real and allows a it to be a very personal touching film. Interesting comment about it being steinbeckian as i was thinking it is very similar to "of mice and men" in the idea of two men in search of a dream that society holds back and also in the idea that the weak will not be able to make it. Illustrated in the tragic ending of both.

al

A mini masterpiece. An excellent example of understated filmmaking which keeps it real and allows a it to be a very personal touching film. Interesting comment about it being steinbeckian as i was thinking it is very similar to "of mice and men" in the idea of two men in search of a dream that society holds back and also in the idea that the weak will not be able to make it. Illustrated in the tragic ending of both.

Kyle

There are few times where I would say this about a critic when they are voicing their simply voicing their educated opinion, but "What is she running from?" and "...and the microeconomics of a cash-only existence will be substantial only to those who consciously ignore Wendy’s choices." tells me that Mr. Kothkopf didn't exactly get it. In the Bush era America does he not understand that a hand to mouth lifestyle isn't exactly a choice or a running from situation? This is one of the great accomplishments of current American cinema.

Kyle

There are few times where I would say this about a critic when they are voicing their simply voicing their educated opinion, but "What is she running from?" and "...and the microeconomics of a cash-only existence will be substantial only to those who consciously ignore Wendy’s choices." tells me that Mr. Kothkopf didn't exactly get it. In the Bush era America does he not understand that a hand to mouth lifestyle isn't exactly a choice or a running from situation? This is one of the great accomplishments of current American cinema.

notafan

I disagree with a couple of things. First, I thought Old Joy was overrated. It was a beautiful film, but bor-ing. Second, Williams gives a great performance, full of subtlety and grit. She looks like every other young tomboy in portland, not an aloof billyburg hipster. The other characters are slightly awkward, but the interactions are rich, although not showy. Rather than disposable, I felt that Wendy & Lucy was a step forward for Kelly Reichardt.

notafan

I disagree with a couple of things. First, I thought Old Joy was overrated. It was a beautiful film, but bor-ing. Second, Williams gives a great performance, full of subtlety and grit. She looks like every other young tomboy in portland, not an aloof billyburg hipster. The other characters are slightly awkward, but the interactions are rich, although not showy. Rather than disposable, I felt that Wendy & Lucy was a step forward for Kelly Reichardt.