Film: Wendy and Lucy
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Performers: Michelle Williams, Wally Dalton, Will Oldham, Lucy the Dog
Breed featured: Mixed breed/mutt
Production information: Field Guide Films, 2008 (USA)
Wendy (Michelle Williams) has been driving across the country with her mutt, Lucy, when her car breaks down somewhere in small town Oregon. With just a few hundred dollars left to get to Alaska, Wendy makes a rash decision to steal a can of dog food. She is caught, and sent to jail as an example (“I’m not from around here sir, I can’t be an example!”) while Lucy is still tied up outside the grocery store. By the time Wendy returns later that day, her dog is gone.
What follows is a detour through the fringes of a dying town as Wendy struggles to find her dog in a place where nobody knows her and nobody really cares… except for an old parking lot security guard (Wally Dalton), who has little to offer but does his best to help anyway.
Even though Lucy the mutt is distressingly absent throughout most of the film, this is one of the best “dog movies” I’ve seen in a while. Despite the disproportionate number of “dog women” I know, I am hard pressed to name many films that give serious consideration to adult women and their canine companions. Yet, this intertwined relationship is evident in the very title — it’s about Wendy and Lucy, conjoined as an augmented identity. Each character has parity and significance and an equal chance at a good life — the question is who has the agency to pursue it on her own terms?
I can’t really say more without giving away the ending, which I don’t like to do for films that aren’t difficult to come by, and which I recommend. For such a quiet, subdued film, I was kept enthralled by my affinity for films about solitary travelers, young adults pushed to personal thresholds, and of course, dogs. And Michelle Williams. This actress consistently impresses me. Something about her subtle eyebrows and chilling, exasperated countenance belies a weariness and depth of experience that far exceeds her slight stature. Her performance carries the film more than adequately.
In short: a beautiful film that will touch anyone who knows that they need to have their dog(s) in their life, yet lacks the words to justify it all the time.