2 Stars - Depressing
The artistic style of director Kelly Reichardt and the authentic acting of Michelle Williams make the depressing journey of Wendy all the more convincing. In their film “Wendy and Lucy,” what is lacking is not cinematic skill but rather a story that provides hope for a lost soul with small dreams and lack of family or community support.
A strength of the film is that we have no idea who Wendy (Michelle Williams) really is. She could be anyone - the woman you see at the side of the road in need or the one walking down the aisle of your neighborhood grocery store. She is alone but hums a haunting tune. She is homeless but she finds a way to brush her teeth. She has a companion but it is only a dog. She has a plan for her life but it is only a change in geography. But it is this plan that reveals Wendy’s inner angst when she explains her desire to travel from Indiana to Alaska is because she hears “people are needed there”. Realizing that there must be no one in her life who needs her, we begin to understand the depth of this call on her soul. This is revealed by her call to connect with her sister in a time of need only to be brushed off and left on her own emotionally and financially.
Getting as far as Oregon, her plan unravels when her 20 year old car breaks down. But the tension created by this event is far more palpable because of the people whose own emptiness dangerously crosses hers. With a Hitchcock-like style, the tension builds as we identify with the vulnerability of this young woman. From the drug-fest fire-ring to the gambling-addicted mechanic to the psychotic man who finds her sleeping alone in the forest, the possibilities for real harm are obvious.
Although Lucy gets equal billing in this film, we soon realize that Wendy’s life is such that she can’t even keep Lucy’s protection and love. This finally leaves Wendy completely alone in a world full with so much possibility. It is this emptiness that causes the film to ultimately lack truth. In the emptiest of lives, there is still room to hope for love and companionship. That this film implies we are left with only a haunting tune as we ride alone into our bleak futures is simply a lie - a lie we should all reject.
Have you ever felt completely alone? If you have, what did you do to find your way back into relationship?
The tenderness that the Walgreen security guard (Wally Dalton) showed in giving Wendy six dollars and the use of his phone was the most human compassion extended to Wendy. Do you believe that such little compassion offered to those in need is true to life or not? Why do you answer as you do?
Do you believe the choice that Wendy makes about Lucy is for the best or not? Is it one based on self-denial of her own need for companionship or the realization that she cannot provide for her?