DVD review: Wendy and Lucy (2009)

7 Jun

“You can’t get an address without an address; you can’t get a phone without a phone.”

Young Wendy is down and out and headed to Alaska to get a job at the canneries. She’s driving an old car that stops driving and she loses her dog outside the supermarket she shoplifts at. The rest of the film is about getting her dog back.

But it’s not really. It’s director Kelly Reichardt’s commentary on the question, “Do you have value if you’re of a certain income?”

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Wendy ends up staying in some town in Oregon that doesn’t really want to know. She washes herself in the servo toilet wash basin, sleeps on cardboard in the park while waiting for the mechanic’s judgment about her car and uses the security guard’s phone to continually call the dog pound for news on Lucy.

Neo-realistic and devoid of music, there’s not a lot for you in this film if you want stunts and glossy images. However, the body of this low budget work ($500,000) will speak to anyone who’s struggled alone to find the way forward. The real desperation is reflected in every simple, yet detailed moment of Wendy trying to get through a difficult moment on her travels – and though we are led to believe the worse will happen in the night, or arguably the best when we see the guy in the garage, the guy in café – no such thing occurs. Just Wendy’s almost numbly dogged determination not to give up. And it’s just Wendy’s luck that she’s here in this situation, unlikely to shoplift again – there’s American moral implications and the righteous prejudice of the average white American male who’s just doing his job. Isn’t he?

Wendy’s on-the-edge-fragility is played by Michelle Williams whose finely crafted realism carries the film. One sign of a great actor is that of letting go of the need to be pretty and although she’s not ugly, Michelle plays Wendy as the antithesis of Hollywood glamour in the chequered shirt, daggy shorts and scruffy boy hairdo she wears all the way through – but it’s the moments when she gives her character permission to breakdown that really define her ability.

Meaningful and quietly desperate, Wendy and Lucy show us what we have to do to move on.

Beverley Callow

2 Responses to “DVD review: Wendy and Lucy (2009)”

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  1. Wendy and Lucy « Beverley Callow - July 30, 2010

    […] DVD review: Wendy and Lucy (2009) « Australian Film Review http://bit.ly/clNk0l […]

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