This was heartbreaking. Kelly Reichardt directed one of my favourite Westerns of all time – Meek’s Cutoff – and so I was really happy to be watching another of her films, a lesser known effort from the mid-noughties.
Michelle Williams seems to be a favourite of Reichardt but it’s not difficult to see why. She’s got an inner toughness that belies the outer fragility of her character – and in Wendy & Lucy, she’s incredibly fragile. Broken even. Playing the titular Wendy, she’s a drifter, heading towards Alaska and work in a cannery, travelling in her beat-up Honda and finding cash wherever she can. Dressed in cutoff shorts, a hoodie, trainers, with an unexplained ankle injury, Wendy is strangely androgynous. For protection, one surmises, which is why she also travels with Lucy – her labrador/mix/crossbreed dog, who she loves more than life.
Due to a series of cock-ups (Wendy’s car breaks down, she ends up spending the day in a police cell due to an overzealous prick in a supermarket), Lucy goes missing, meaning Wendy spends the rest of the film trying to find her beloved hound. Along the way, she meets some kindnesses, has a bad experience in the woods, and basically shows us how easy it is to fall through the cracks in society and end up on the road, with just a few dollars and a lovely dog to your name.
It was such a tender film – Wendy is shown with grace and vulnerability, trying to do the best she can – and there are some lovely cameos, from Will Patton as a mechanic and Wally Dalton as a friendly security guard. Plus some menace, too – keeping the film moving along as Wendy tramps the streets of a broken down Oregon town, hunting for her dog. Wonderful, touching and full of humanity. Recommended.