Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008) April 29, 2009Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood, Literature.
Written by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Michelle Williams, Will Patton, Wally Dalton
One can’t help but remember the classic Reader’s Digest story “Cipher in the Snow” by Jean Mizer after watching Wendy and Lucy. It is a tragic story of a child named Cliff Evans who dropped dead after getting off the school bus, as told by his teacher who reflected on the circumstances that turned him meaningless, thus the cipher in the title. His death was largely ignored by his family and classmates, his mother even telling the teacher that her child never even spoke to her about being ill. Reichardt deftly peruses that ostracized feeling through minimalism and a savage control of material. She takes the risk of being too simple – – from plot to treatment, from the hard-hitting rawness of the story to the humming used in the tracking shots, from the consistently blasé distance to the heartbreaking conclusion that isn’t even presented as heartbreaking – – and comes up with a depressingly fascinating and brilliantly nuanced critique of life in exclusion, the anger and hopelessness of it, the casualness and cruelty of the situation, the desperation of hanging onto things that matter to a woman we only know as Wendy – – her dog and her car, which to her means everything, her life, her dream of going to Alaska to find work, to start anew. Reichardt keeps us far from knowing more about Wendy’s life, but Michelle Williams, in an incredibly moving and controlled performance, and in the role that she will always be noted for, gives us an indelible impression of her past – – that of departures and pain – – and shows us the desperation of living on the edge on your own, the utmost difficulty of connecting with people and seeking their help when they are filled with doubt and apathy. That it has kept its brave politics without losing its artistic merits is already a feat on its part; what more if it tells us the truth, and how we cannot avoid it.