Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy ★★★★

Part Italian neorealism, part UK social realism. Reichardt channels the Dardenne spirit into this deceptively simple little film in a way that feels uniquely American, largely in how it concerns itself with those struggling to live on the socio-economic margins. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" feels poetically, even ironically fitting for a story about a girl and her dog migrating towards new frontiers, new employment, new lands and financial stability, yet who tragically find themselves exhausted from life on the road, impoverished by circumstances not of their own making, and enslaved to the mercy of callous and compassionate strangers. 

At first blush WENDY AND LUCY is a story about a girl losing and resiliently searching for her dog. Look beyond that story and you might see a larger story quietly told on both a personal and political scale. Wendy and Lucy are the pauperized victims of a distinctly American landscape, marooned by poverty, hunger and desperation while passing through a town that opens and closes its doors to them in disproportionate measures. Some strangers are kind to them, many are cruel, but most just feel constrained by their own economic lot to make any significant difference in their journey. 

There's a similar thread in DOGVILLE (2003) that looks at the migrant journey and criticizes all Americans who turn their backs on the Statue of Liberty ideal, but Reichardt's brand of politicking doesn't vilify American systemic issues related to poverty. She symbolically reveals the complexity of the system in how varied the responses are to those who encounter Wendy, some who desire her arrest, others who aid her with capital. It's a road movie where every dollar and cent counts. Where the kindness of strangers goes a long way. Where poverty leads to migration. Where migration leads to poverty and glistening horizons. And where being broke, lost, arrested and friendless become tangible markers of the migrant experience.

It's a prosaic parable told without the hammer of metaphor, yet it works as one because of how simple and considered the narrative is.


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