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A woman's life is derailed en route to a potentially lucrative summer job. When her car breaks down, and her dog is taken to the pound, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes apart, and she is led through a series of increasingly dire economic decisions. Written by
Sometimes the simplest stories are the most effecting and the simplest characters are the most endearing
Sometimes the simplest stories are the most effecting and the simplest characters are the most endearing. Wendy and Lucy is a perfect example of this. When discussing this film however one must praise Michelle Williams. Before she even utters a word with her body movement and her facial features we get a sense of who Wendy is. We have seen this character before and we know her. Wendy is a simple girl with a simple purpose but Michelle Williams gives her the grace and kindness that makes her seem real and is all the more gut wrenching when things start crashing down around her. Most actresses her age with her resume would scoff at the idea of playing such a simple and expressionless character who hasn't showered for days and wears cut off brown pants and an unflattering blue sweatshirt but she breathes life into Wendy and adds an extra dimension to her. Of course a great performance would be wasted without a narrative for Wendy.
As the film unfolds the narrative is quite simplistic. Wendy is stuck in a small town in Oregon on her way to Alaska and wants to get on her way as fast as possible before her money runs out. There however are events that will unfold that prevent this from happening. There is little surprise and in fact the narrative is quite predictable with most events foreshadowed. As these events unfold however they are still impactful and meaningful because Wendy does not see them coming. As simplistic as this narrative may be there is complexity to it in the form of political commentary on small town America and how the people that live there are struggling. Wendy herself is fleeing Indiana living in her car and managing a small sum of money to go to the promise land of Alaska since they are hiring. The town is suffering from the closing of a mill with few jobs and is inhabited by many disenfranchised individuals. While this film could be fixated on these points Kelly Reichardt has crafted them very subtlety into the character and the setting. Characters don't stand around saying small own America is dying, but we can easily pick this up from the plot and the visuals of a broken down town with many closed business and downtrodden individuals. Usually films of this type heap on background but instead there are only a few scenes to decipher Wendy's story and motivation.
The soundtrack for this film is Wendy humming quietly to herself which when employed help foster a sense of intimacy. Kelly Reichardt shoots the film with a naturalistic feel with a steady and fluid motion of the camera. There are many long takes with tracking shots as the camera follows Wendy as she walks around this town but this is contrasted with close ups where the camera gets in tight to see the expressions on Wendy's face. There is only natural light used and most of the scenes take place out doors with wind blowing through Wendy's hair and building being nothing more than a backdrop. All of these aspects together create a sense of intimacy with Wendy. Wendy and Lucy shows us that a great film really only needs a honest and meaningful connection to a character through narrative, acting and mise-en-scène.
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