Another month, another movie about a female protagonist who loses her dog. But unlike Bolt and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, this month's model is about as far removed from a kid-oriented comedy as you can get. Directed by Kelly Reichardt, whose previous film Old Joy earned raves for its depiction of two male friends who have stayed in touch long after they began to grow apart, Wendy and Lucy is a gritty, slow-paced look at those who live on the margins of society, made all the more believable by Reichardt's lo-fi aesthetic. Shot in the trainyards and empty parking lots of Portland, Oregon with a cast of mostly unknown actors, the film has a close-to-the-ground documentary feel that draws us into the economic hardships of its main characters far better than a typical low-budget studio movie would do.
The part of Wendy, a woman who is only passing through Portland when she runs into a bit of trouble there, is played by Michelle Williams, one of the very few "name" actors in the cast. We know very little about Wendy when the movie begins, and we don't know much more by the time it ends, but we do learn that she has very few possessions, besides her car and her dog Lucy and a little bit of cash. We also learn that she has come from Indiana and that she now wants to go north to Alaska, where she hears there are good jobs. And we learn that she doesn't complain much about her lot in life, she just gets on with it, though not as industriously as some.
Early on, she collects some cans and bottles, hoping to earn a bit of money by recycling them, but when she gets to the depot, she finds a long line-up populated by people who have filled entire grocery carts with such items. One man, sitting in a wheelchair, offers to hold her bag for ...1