Kelly Reichardt’s name may not ring a bell to many moviegoers, but her last two films have led me to think that she is one of the most coherent and interesting American filmmakers working today.
I don’t know how many of you saw her previous film, Old Joy, but simply put, it was one of the 10 best American independent films of the past few years. Reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s best work, the film was a naturalistic road trip where two “long-time-no-see” friends caught up with each other while wandering in a West Coast forest. A fascinating, poetic, bitter tale that made me eagerly await Reichardt’s next, which came in the form of Wendy and Lucy.
The parenthood of the female director is obvious. Wendy is a young woman in the middle of crossing through Oregon, with her old car and her beloved dog, Lucy. Her aim? To reach Alaska, where a good job is waiting for her, away from her ongoing troubles. But her troubles are only beginning when her car breaks down in a small town and Lucy is taken to the pound.
As you can see, this is not a “big events” movie. No big adventures on the screen. This is a visually static and minimally elaborated trip. But as expected after the purity of Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy is a film that manages to express a lot with very little. Kelly Reichardt is a filmmaker that succeeds in commenting on society’s actual difficulties with what seems to be very little to exploit from. It’s a woman and her love for her dog. It’s the dreams that seem so hard to materialize while they seem so easy to obtain. It is the difficulty to maintain a decent level of living even in the most remote location imaginable.
Wendy and Lucy, by apparently dealing with a simple tale of a woman and her dog, has the discrete ambition of laying its finger on the pains and evils of today’s America. The love and the hate, the hope and the fear, the cruelty and the generosity, everything that makes our times so hard to live. But despite all its bitterness, Wendy and Lucy is above all a story of love and sacrifice, beautifully portrayed by Michelle Williams, which once again, like a few years ago with Old Joy, leaves us wanting to see more from Reichardt.