Realistic and Heartbreaking
Wendy and Lucy is the best feel-bad movie of 2008. Starring Michelle Williams as a young woman facing poverty and the possible loss of her beloved pet, this poignant indie film stretched my heartstrings to the breaking point. And, because of her riveting performance, Williams earns a spot on my short list of nominees for Best Lead Actress of the year.
Thankfully, no car chases or special effects or overpowering background music are found in Wendy and Lucy. This little gem of a film depends entirely on the acting skill of Williams (Deception) for its emotional impact. As Wendy, Williams offers viewers the chance to see a brilliant actress at work. In fact, I forgot she was acting and began to think I was watching a real person, one I desperately wanted to help. Williams, on screen in every scene, displays the body language, vocal inflections and facial expressions of a person who’s exhausted but not defeated by the obstacles life throws her way.
Directed and co-written -- with Jonathan Raymond -- by Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy), Wendy and Lucy follows Wendy as she finds herself stranded in a small Oregon town while driving to Alaska in hopes of finding work in a cannery. Lucy, Wendy’s loyal Golden Labrador Retriever, is traveling along with her. When her car breaks down, Wendy must stay until it’s repaired. But she’s on a strict budget, so the cost of fixing her old Honda Accord may be more than she can afford. And Lucy needs to be fed, of course.
Unfortunately, while leaving a grocery store, Wendy gets arrested for shoplifting and sent to jail. To make matters worse, Lucy is gone when Wendy returns to where the dog was left before this unhappy incident took place. The rest of the film deals with Wendy’s relentless efforts to find Lucy, the one thing in her life that makes her happy.
“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers,” says Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. If anyone ever needed that type of kindness it’s Wendy. Instead, she runs up against an unreasonable grocery clerk (John Robinson), a scary homeless man (Larry Fassenden), and an all-business mechanic (Will Patton). Only one person, an elderly security guard (Wally Dalton), seems to care what happens to her.
Yes, Wendy and Lucy is a downer. But, in addition to Williams’ remarkable performance, this unforgettable film is a dramatic reminder to count our blessings and to help people who are going through bad times. With the economy getting worse every day, we’ll have lots of opportunities to do just that.
(Released by Oscilloscope Pictures and rated “R” for language.)
For more information about Wendy and Lucy, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.