Wendy (Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain) is traveling across the Pacific Northwest to find work and have a fresh start in Alaska. She is wide-eyed, but instead of innocence, those wide eyes are filled with sadness and determination as she makes her way with very little money and no friends save her Labrador, Lucy. When Wendy is arrested for shoplifting, Lucy, who was chained outside the store, goes missing and Wendy begins a desperate search for her faithful friend.
Director Kelly Reichardt plops us down into Wendys world without giving the audience any answers. We dont know why Wendy has decided to trek across country with a nearly broken down car, hardly any money, and only her dog as a companion. No answers are ever given. Its as if Reichardt herself discovered Wendy in this tiny Oregon town and just started rolling the camera. The film feels real, more like a documentary.
The realism of the film is largely thanks to Michelle Williams brave performance as Wendy. Because of the unspeakable tragedy that occurred so recently in her off screen life, Wendys wide, scared, lost looks are that much more heart breaking. We want to know what happened to her. We want to know what we can do to help her get back on the road with her dog. But were given nothing. No way to help this poor girl.
Williams Lucy is reminiscent of Kristin Scott-Thomass Juliette in last years Ive Loved You So Long. Both characters are detached from reality and have the aura about them that something deeply disturbing has occurred in their lives. As an audience, it is easy for us to sympathize with them and want to help them. But with both films, we are never given that opportunity. Our hearts break along with theirs.
Wendy and Lucy is a small, quiet film. The very definition of what we think of when we think of “independent film”. It gives us something different, a small, short glimpse into the life of a woman. We become like the security officer in the film who offers Wendy the little bit of help that he can. We just want to do something to help her, but nothing can really quell the pain behind those eyes. Reichardt has crafted a very emotional film, one that is worth seeking out.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital Surround. The sound is perfect and crisp, especially during the scenes in the woods. Every last breath of Wendy’s is heard, making the scene that much more tense. The picture quality is less than perfect, but I think it adds more to making the film look real. The picture quality adds more of a homemade documentary feel to the film.
Instead of the typical Behind the Scenes/Making Of/Deleted Scenes type extras, Kelly Reichardt has decided to showcase 5 short films by her collegues at Bard College in New York, where she currently teaches film.
1 and 2) Boston Fire & New York Portrait #2 – director Peter Hutton – The first film, Boston Fire 5:11, is silent black and white footage of firefighters trying to put out a fire. The second, New York Portrait #2 11:27, is silent black and white footage of various scenes in New York City.
3) The Scary Movie – director Peggy Ahwesh – This is an experimental film, starring two young girls playing dress up and doing some strange creepy things. In one part of the short film, one of the little girls dons a Hitler-like mustache and appears to kill the other girl. Then, there’s a close up shot of one of the little girls legs, and an older-looking adult hand appears to caress it. The bizarre sound effects that serve as the soundtrack to the film also add to the creepy vibe. Overall, this one was very very strange. 8:18
4) Flight – director Les Le Veque – This director takes a portion of the Neil Armstrong moon walk video footage and spins it like a DJ with some incredibly annoying sound affects to accompany it. All the herky-jerky motions with the video make a strobe-light effect. Accompanied with the annoyingly loud morse code-like sounds, this was one of the more difficult shorts to watch. 7:12
5) How To Fix The World – director Jacqueline Goss – Finally, a “normal” short. This clever film uses actual research from A.R. Luria’s travels to Uzbekistan and neighboring countries to see how literacy affects people. Using a mix of animation and actual photographs from her travels to Uzbekistan, Goss crafts a very interesting short film. This is the one worth watching. 28:25
Oscilloscope Releases –
Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot (a documentary about street basketball)
Flow (a documentary about the water industry and who should control such a life-sustaining and important commodity)
Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father (The TRAILER for this one made me cry! It’s about an only child named Andrew, who grew up and got married. His wife kills him, and after he dies, finds out she’s pregnant with his baby. Andrew’s parents want to try to gain custody of the child. Andrew’s best friend Kurt (the director of the film) wanted to make a film to show this baby what a great man his father was, and the lengths that his parents went to to try to keep this baby. Amazing. I need to see this.)
Wendy and Lucy
Frontrunners (a documentary about the class elections at a prestigious high school in New York City)
Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie (a documentary about actual Bigfoot chasers)
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (a documentary about musician Scott Walker)
Posters: Treeless Mountain, Kisses, The Garden (which received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary in 2008), Burma VJ, Unmistaken Child
Wendy and Lucy is a poignant and emotional film. A quick and quiet glimpse into the life of a woman. There are no bells, no whistles, just Wendy. Reichardt’s filmmaking style is minimalistic, giving a glimpse into life in this Oregon town that could be anywhere in America. What really makes this DVD release unique is the addition of those short films in the place of extras. While the short films weren’t all that entertaining, they were interesting in their own ways. This is my first experience with an Oscilloscope DVD and I’m quite impressed with the DVD packaging and the layout of the DVD. This film comes recommended.
Oscilliscope presents Wendy and Lucy. Directed by: Kelly Reichardt. Starring: Michelle Williams, Walter Dalton, Will Oldham. Written by: Jonathan Raymond. Running time: 80 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: May 5, 2009. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: michelle williams