Just Passing Through: Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy movie poster


Kel­ly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy is, on its own terms, per­fect. As such, it expos­es the sil­ly prac­tice of rat­ing films in num­bers of stars, even if this par­tic­u­lar blog is mere­ly one movie lover’s jour­nal of per­son­al reac­tions, and not pre­tend­ing to be objec­tive crit­i­cism. So please inter­pret these five stars as mean­ing that I was utter­ly moved by Wendy and Lucy.

Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a young drifter from Indi­ana head­ing nowhere in par­tic­u­lar. Her home is a bat­tered car, shared only with her beloved dog Lucy. She’s wor­ry­ing­ly skin­ny, with an unex­plained ban­daged ankle. She keeps a run­ning ledger in her jour­nal, track­ing the rapid decline of the life sav­ings strapped to her waist. We don’t know why Wendy is on her own — whether she’s run­ning from some­thing or some­one, or if she’s sim­ply search­ing for a job. She calls her sis­ter and broth­er-in-law in Indi­ana, but they evi­dent­ly have prob­lems of their own and quick­ly dis­miss her. The poor, mis­er­able girl nev­er smiles, but often qui­et­ly hums a tune to her­self.

Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy

One night, Wendy meets a group of young drifters by a bon­fire. Icky (musi­cian Will Old­ham — a.k.a. Bon­nie ‘Prince’ Bil­ly) men­tions an Alaskan fish­ery that pays well and pro­vides hous­ing. This is good enough for Wendy, and pro­vides her with a des­ti­na­tion. But she expe­ri­ences a dis­as­trous day while pass­ing through Port­land (or in terms of her ledger, as least, the most crip­pling­ly expen­sive). In short order, her car breaks down, she’s caught shoplift­ing, los­es Lucy, and is very near­ly assault­ed.

Michelle Williams in Wendy and Lucy

The secu­ri­ty guard of the neigh­bor­hood Wal­greens (Wal­ter Dal­ton) becomes a gen­uine friend, whose great­est aid may sim­ply be just talk­ing with her. They briefly bond over the shared mis­eries of those that fall between the tracks: you can’t get a job with­out an address or a phone num­ber, and you can’t get an address or a phone num­ber with­out a job. Peo­ple like her are always “just pass­ing through.” He gives her $7, a gift he hides from his fam­i­ly, clear­ly a sac­ri­fice for him.

Wendy and Lucy is spare and eco­nom­i­cal at only 75 min­utes long, but it is heart­break­ing and dev­as­tat­ing. In some ways, Wendy is bet­ter off than the group of drifters she meets at the begin­ning of the film; she has a car, mea­ger sav­ings, and some dis­ci­pline. But the num­ber of steps it would take for her to become like them is few, and may hap­pen in only a sin­gle day. One can only hope that Icky is right, and that Wendy will find some liveli­hood in Alas­ka.

Offi­cial movie site: www.wendyandlucy.com

Buy the DVD from Ama­zon and kick back a few pen­nies to The Dork Report.