Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"Wendy and Lucy" (2008) - Movie Review

Sitting in to the depths of thoughts on the effort in waking the sleeping storyteller, it does not take complex characters or extensive plots with twists and turns for a writer. All it needs is a genuine display of the life we lead and the relating attribute in the characters putting the audience into their shoes. “Wendy and Lucy” an independent film directed by Kelly Reichardt is an exercise in those of seeing people been moved into their restless posture quite easily of day to day happenings. Add the only companion Lucy the dog (the dog’s real life name is Lucy too) who has stuck with the character in the film with her master Wendy (Michelle Williams), we begin to look for the bushes and side walks to find the dog when she gets lost a little early in the film.

In a road trip where vacation and relaxing adventure is the destination, the main landmark and towns are not the milestone in the fun we had as memories. It is the town we would not know unless we travel through it and the unusual people offering help unconditionally for which we could not thank enough for. While those two contribute to that, the situation we seem to never get out of or the car that kisses the verge of complete breakdown and revival from it are unforgettable. Wendy, young girl is on her way to Alaska. From her thorough calculations of the money she has and spent, we know that she needs to get there and the life of simple job and extended personal time is the dream of her. On her passing through in a town big enough to have Walgreens and small enough to have everything within three miles, Wendy’s first fiasco happens. Her car breaks down.

In the lot she parked her car comes a Security Guard (Wally Dalton), an old man who hurries her out of the lot as those are the rules. And when he says that to Wendy and us, we understand that he sympathizes but cannot afford to lose his job. With a nearby garage not opening and Lucy’s food supply going extinct, Wendy ventures out to the nearby grocery store for some brisk and untrained shoplifting. Only to be caught by an active teenager (John Robinson), she spends few hours in jail and runs back worried to see the Lucy missing where she was tied in front of the store. With the car that is unmoving, cash that is not ready to be spent yet and the near loving dog disappearing, Wendy is pushed to rethink her plan of heading north.

But this is not a film of consecutive snippets of drama. Kelly Reichardt finds the odd calmness in the scrambled traffic sounds of the mid day. Wendy walks, takes the bus and meanders on this dreadful town. She does not shout out her current predicament rather like any one ponders in the silence of the helplessness and agony. She goes to the pound and as the camera moves from one cage to the other, we know that Lucy is not going to be there but we think that so the opposite effect can take place. This is the thought Lucy goes through because she is like any one of us, hoping to find her dog.

Creating empathy for Wendy is everything in this film. Wendy hearing the Security Guard mentioning his child hood days of his dad leaving a coat for the lost dog to return motivates her to leave her dresses along the street sides and the woods they visited at the start of the film. That is normal but she decides to sleep in the woods in the hopes of having this great reuniting moment with Lucy only to be terrified in the late night by a stranger. That five minutes where he rambles about his unstable state of being outcasted by the people is the scariest and the funniest in the film. We know that he might be a simpleton with the problem of blabbering to passerby strangers but at the time when owls come out, amongst the woods and defenseless, he is the terror.

Wendy’s ordeal is felt in the desperate calls she makes to the pound hoping to hear a better news in this cursed town. There are true human moments with the Security Guard and of course Lucy itself. Kelly Reichardt mastery in telling this utmost simple story with such a care for the emotion of Michelle William’s Wendy draws its audience to perceive a film that can be made without chaos and hassles. “Wendy and Lucy” is a tale on the balance the director has throughout the film. Right till the end even when the story’s crux element of moving us comes in, it is natural.

In this film there are two performances to note. One is of course Michelle Williams being the girl hoping for a better place and situation in her passage to decent life is patient in her performance. She is patient in depicting this girl who has caused enough inconvenience to herself on doing a silly shoplifting and trying to maintain a state of balance to get through this phase tells us her maturity as an actor coming far away from her Television’s teen drama “Dawson’s Creek”. The other one is Wally Dalton as this caring guard who comes to help Wendy in the smallest but the most effective offerings . He makes a man we would see amongst us sitting and finding peace in the life they are leading. “Wendy and Lucy” should be considered as the short film. It is not the short film in terms of duration (even though it is merely 80 minutes), it is a visual presentation of a short story (adapted from Jonathan Raymond’s “Train Choir”) carrying the feel of it from the writings, unperturbed.

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