This quiet and simple story is a very real look at poverty and ones relationship to man’s best friend that works to pretty great effect, even on a shoe string budget.
Wendy (Michelle Williams) & Lucy (Lucy the dog) are on their way to Alaska. Wendy is looking for work and hears there are plenty of options up in the our northern most state, but she is counting her dollars as she works her way north as she is currently stopped in Oregon taking some time to rest along the way. Upon waking up to the rattle of a security officer of the local Walgreen’s on her car window, Wendy tries to start her car and move it to the street where it is legal to park, unable to get the engine to turn over, the security guard pushes her into a spot on the street and Wendy has to pass the time till the near by auto repair shop opens up. To pass the time, Wendy heads to the local grocery store with Lucy in tow, as they have run out of dog food, and Wendy resorts to trying to shoplift a couple of items from the store for her and her dog. Unknown to her, a young employee was keeping a watchful eye on her and he pulls her back into the store and pushily presses the reluctant manager into turning her over to the local authorities. Wendy arrested, Lucy is left tied to the bike rack in the front of the store and after Wendy is processed and pays her fine, she heads back to the store to find Lucy missing and she begins searching for her dog around the store. Unable to find her, she returns to her car to find the, auto shop still closed and the security guard still keeping an eye on the parking lot, in which he offers some supportive words to Wendy on finding Lucy.
The film by Kelly Reinhardt is an indie to be sure, but with that said, she still does a great job at creating a nice look for the film and gives the film a lot of heart with both her camera and her script. The film moves at a comfortable pace and while a couple shots linger a bit too long, there isn’t a wasted scene in the picture. The filmmakers also do a fantastic job of intertwining Wendy’s struggles with money directly with the search and dedication to find Lucy. The film makes you hope for Wendy as she searches for her dog, even though Wendy herself isn’t the most sympathetic character in the first place. There is a lot to Wendy we never get the full story about, but we can gather she is on the run, possibly from the law, and is also stuck in a weird emotional rut right now as her immediate family doesn’t seem very supportive of her. That doesn’t mean she is without a father figure though in the picture as the writers do a fantastic job of creating a wonderful character out of the security guard.
Michelle Williams as Wendy is quite great at just selling us on the struggles and pressures of being down and out. She tries to grasp onto this dream of righting her world in Alaska, but as curveballs start getting thrown her way, Williams subtly shows us how it is getting harder and harder to climb this slowly growing mountain of doubt and despair she must climb. Williams also wow’s in particular after a late night encounter in a park that will have you even tensed up in your seat. The only other major principle in the cast is Willy Dalton as the security guard and he puts a smile on your face every time he appears on screen. He is sweet, loveable, positive, and selfless and one wonders where Wendy would have ended up without him to guide him along the way. Also of note, John Robinson is great as the dick store clerk that puts Wendy in this mess in the first place and does a great job of making us want to punch him the face for being not turning a blind eye instead of making an example of Wendy. And Lucy the dog is great as well.
In the end, Wendy and Lucy is a wonderful little look into the life of this character in the middle of her toughest of times. We don’t get the whole story of Wendy and Lucy, but we still are engaged by their characters and they path that we think they were or will end up on. The film does a fantastic job of capturing what one will do for man’s best friend, even at the sacrifice of their own possible well being, and dog lover will get behind Wendy for that. Dog lovers will enjoy the picture as will fans of indie flicks, as it is quite the stand out from the pack, but if you are a fan of strong female performances as well, Williams is not to be missed here either. 8.5/10