Ray’s review published on Letterboxd:
God I'm so fucking happy/sad that I finally committed to getting around to all of Reichardt's films.
Wendy and Lucy is fucking phenomenal, even better than Old Joy. Maybe a 10, I'm going to think about it more over a night of sleep. I've never seen a movie more perfectly encapsulate the experience of poverty, I've never been quite to the level Wendy finds herself in but I know essentially every part of this movie in my bones and in my experiences. And it can do it so effortlessly not just by design but visually. Later in this post I mention this pair of shots when Wendy's checking her car out, but another stellar example is when she's kinda just wandering around the supermarket before she can do anything and all this food that she really cannot afford just surrounds her and it's really heartbreaking to see all of it in abundance just sitting there. The details just flow out of it, the quiet indignation when the mechanic offers that she can pay "only $30" for an essentially effortless tow, the scrounging coins to trade for more useful currency, the sort of conditioned inability to be patient waiting for free money at the recycling place, it speaks this language completely fluently.
Mix that into essentially the far and away most interesting moment of Room blown out into a full film on its own and you have something ripe to just fucking knock doors down. It's an emotional juggernaut in a completely, beautifully understated and pitch-perfect way, the ups and downs but more than that the just constant crushing pressure, evocative of the thing people evoke about a frog being boiled in a gradually heating pot. All the more, too, for how those emotions ebb and flow and crest and develop over the course of the movie, leading to a flawless ending that's this beautiful mix of terrible sadness and joy and optimism and so much fucking defeat and pain. There are seriously notable crests even before that, including this one horribly scary scene in basically pitch black night, but the ending left me crying and it's not for no reason.
And I'm loving finding myself picking out more and more of what makes a Reichardt a Reichardt. It's palpable how much she values the quiet and this movie would have been completely undone by any kind of score and I love so fucking much that there isn't any. She has this incredible capacity for intimacy with her characters; the moment I knew I was sold on this movie came early, but not immediately, in the second scene when Wendy is budgeting out her money as she needs to get to Alaska and it feels wholly inside her mind. She has a tendency toward developing her characters through action and she's so good at it, a memorable example coming when, after her car won't start, Wendy pops the hood to take a look and in two shots completely establishes Wendy's sorta needed optimism that she would even look despite knowing there's no way she'd know what to do or could fix it herself.
And, perhaps my favorite of all, she knows when to drag something out, something displayed many many times here. I was thinking about it in the montage right after Lucy goes missing, a much easier film that was more concerned with not feeling repetitive would definitely not have shown as many shots of Wendy shouting out after Lucy trying to find her, it's seriously like 2-3 minutes straight of nothing but that, and it's not the easy choice at all but it's so the perfect one, each concurrent shot doubling down on the distress of it all. Or when Wendy puts up missing dog fliers, there's, again, like maybe 10-15 shots of her doing nothing but that and it feels repetitive but it's supposed to, it's a daring gamble to shuck more conventional pacing and really let us stew in the entire process of this all, of Wendy fighting so hard to find Lucy, but it works because Reichardt just has that kind of confidence and talent to force it to work, to make the act of spending an entire day doing one thing fruitlessly compelling cinema.
Williams, for her part, certainly helps quite a lot too. I haven't seen her for what stamped her onto my radar so forcefully for a while but it all came flooding back here. Wendy is a character of incredible fortitude, by force, and it's so much Williams' steadfast gaze that sells it wholesale. And it's her smile that brings in a flood of such incredible relief whenever it appears, however temporary. Other performances are good, including a notably pitch perfect pseudo-villain from some horrible shithead kid at a supermarket that's basically maybe on the lowkey the most horrible villain I've seen in years, but it's Williams' show and the amount of moments in this movie she carries like a fucking champ are hard to estimate. I don't know if anyone else could have done this role and that's not something I find myself thinking very often.
But, naturally, it's becoming ever clearer why Reichardt and Williams find themselves so intertwined. They really do bring out something in each other and, if Meek's Cutoff really soars for me this time like I expect it to, it'll show to be as prosperous a collaboration of director and actor as currently exists. Bring on Certain Women. Bring on literally anything Reichardt wants to do.