A young woman named Wendy (Michelle Williams) and her dog, Lucy, are en route from the Midwest to Alaska. Though she's somewhat disaffected, Wendy has bought into the myth of going West, where there will be gold (or decent jobs) and wide open spaces, perfect for re-booting one's life. From the film's off-kilter opening that places Wendy and Lucy in the midst of modern-day hobos, it's a good guess that Wendy's dream will hit a roadblock. In fact, her ancient Honda breaks down in an Oregon town, Lucy disappears and the grand plan begins to fray.
The pace is slow, the plot minimal in this quiet drama, but the film builds slowly, as Wendy's ordinary life falls further apart, one poor decision, one bit of bad luck at a time. Wendy and Lucy is directed by Kelly Reichert and co-penned with Jonathan Raymond, who also teamed up for 2006's Old Joy, an even sparer film about the inevitable distance that time can bring to relationships.
When Wendy loses her dog, I was reminded of De Sica's neo-realistic classic The Bicycle Thief and how one banal loss can set an already struggling protagonist that much closer to the edge. Very often, only the slightest advantage keeps folks from tumbling over, and the push can come suddenly, unexpectedly -- and the way back can seem impossible. Even good news -- when it comes for Wendy, it's too late -- is just another painful kick. Starts Fri., Feb. 20. Regent Square