Sean Cordy’s review published on Letterboxd:
While it is a great representation about how our economy has gone haywire, it's more about the crash in society.
Every turn Wendy takes in an effort to make her (and her dog Lucy) life better, things just get worse. Why it gets worse is that very few people will help. She has to steal food for her dog just to get by, and then the teenager that catches her in the act won't give her any leeway.
Our society has become so "to the book" about rules that we can't even bend the rules to help someone that truly needs it. It's easy to assume she shouldn't have a dog if she can't buy food, but take a walk in their shoes.
Maybe her home was wrecked by a tornado, or she was evicted because she lost her job and couldn't pay the rent anymore. But it's not just Wendy, it's the people we meet at the camp fire, and even the old security guard she first encounters.
Even though that security guard is working an eight to eight shift almost everyday to make ends meet, he's the only person that helps Wendy. What Reichardt is getting at is how our society has collapsed with time. It seems the younger the person she encounters, the less they are willing to help (and even make times even harder for Wendy).
Reichardt doesn't attempt to show why this is, but society has certainly done something to desensitize the youth. That's why the middle aged mechanic is willing to help somewhat, but not completely. He's grown up in two different eras - his willingness to help is somewhere in the middle.
It's social commentary is the most stunning part, but it certainly has a lot to do with Michelle Williams' fantastic performance and its matter-of-fact presentation.
What it also makes most clear is that in our world today, you need something to be something - and that's hard.
If you don't have money, you can't move to Alaska (or wherever) to make money. If you don't have a car, you can't go get a new car. If you don't have a job, you can't get a new job to get that money to buy the car to move. The list goes on. It seems that you even need a phone number to be worth anything anymore.
Our society is about numbers more than it is about empathy anymore, and that's really depressing.