Wendy and Lucy
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Starring Michelle Williams, Wally Dalton, Will Patton
"From April to July 2008, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 1.9 million to 21.0 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported..."
"Official figures show there has been a 12 per cent rise across England in the number of people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education, employment or training."
The headlines wail like an ambulance; the numbers make it impossible to picture. What was quirky and thematically enthusiastic in Richard Linklater's "Slacker" is bleak gravity in the bare and atmospheric tale of a girl and her dog against a struggling America in "Wendy and Lucy."
Alienated, sullen but determined Wendy Carroll (Williams at her startling best) is on a road trip to Alaska to start a new life with her dog Lucy. Her car breaks down in Oregon putting whatever cash she has pinned her dreams on at risk. And it's not much, really, not even enough for dog food. When she loses Lucy, reality's claws dig deeper, holding Wendy down, mobile but fixed, a prisoner pacing a prison cell looking for a way out. And her best friend.
Kelly Reichardt's ode to life on the American fringe is a distant humming of a sweet melody; a world "out there" brimming with possibilities but just impossible to breach. We are suffocated by what Reichardt shows: overlapping parking lots, cramped railways, a vastness that is as bone-dry as it is impenetrable. There is a twinkle of kindness in the parking attendant that befriends Wendy but even he is stuck to a (vicious) cycle of watching the world go by.
I had to look away a couple of times and even made a sandwich to break the film's spiraling spell. "Wendy and Lucy" has a steady calm that is hypnotic but it also this near serene surrender to a dead end existence that will quietly break your heart.