Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy ★★★★½

Kelly Reichhardt is a poet of the margins. Characters on the margins of society. Characters with no margin for error. We can feel her great compassion them (and are sometimes shamed by it) as she lets their lives unfold in long, contrastingly beautiful takes. Oregonian Neorealism. There’s a direct line from De Sica’s bicycle to Wendy searching for Lucy, propelled through the streets by a farrago of bad choices and bad luck.

Wendy was headed to Alaska driven with the misplaced optimism that has driven young people westward into the wild since Horace Greeley to Christopher McCandless. Her car and dreams blew a head gasket outside Portland.

Reichhardt here spurns the natural beauty emphasized in Old Joy, (or uses it as a metaphor for Wendy’s destination) and shows us the reality of Wendy’s predicament through a weary stretch of the urban margin: a freight yard, a shitty repair shop for shittier autos, the ubiquitous Walgreens, a gas station bathroom, a much-shoplifted local grocery.

Wendy meets with both the zero-tolerance of a modern day Pharisee stockboy and widow’s mite acts of charity from the security guard. Michelle Williams is amazing. Somehow we judge her decisions but not her. The ebullient Lucy, reprising her character from Old Joy, is both the film’s MacGuffin and emotional nexus.

Half-star bonus: Reichhardt shows someone in a cafe reading Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, the best Pacific Northwest novel (IMHO.)

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