There were several warning signs ahead of this one. First, it’s not encouraging when a dog’s name is in the title. More importantly, I had only seen one Kelly Reichardt film, Old Joy, which came just before Wendy and Lucy, and I was, to quote from my comments, “bored shitless”. I wrote at the time that nothing happens (I’m erratic about this ... I usually hate it ... on the other hand, I love L’Avventura). What’s funny is that my memory in retrospect (some seven years since I saw it) is that I found the relationship between the two men at the center of the film made me very uncomfortable. The guy who was still a hippie gave me the creeps, and I felt bad for the guy who had “sold out”. Yet all I talked about then was how bored I was.
Wendy and Lucy is not boring, at least not to me. Apparently, I am less bothered by a relationship between a woman and a dog than I am about two men, one of whom seems to make demands on the other. (Wendy doesn’t make demands on Lucy, and of course, Lucy is a dog so she doesn’t make many demands, either.) The style of Wendy and Lucy is similar to the earlier film ... a good feel for nature (and the beautiful cinematography to go with it), a lack of a narrative thrust, the willingness to take the time to let the film develop (if “develop” is the right word). Both films are very short (76 minutes for Old Joy, 80 for Wendy and Lucy), but here the running time seems just right (whereas Old Joy seemed endless, even at 76 minutes).
Michelle Williams has to carry the movie, and she does, which is no surprise, given how often she is excellent. She doesn’t overplay, so she fits right into the film’s tone, and when she finally breaks for a moment, it carries extra weight for being rare. People took note of what Williams did to her looks for the movie ... four of the five trivia items on the IMDB are about her appearance (she went without makeup, didn’t wash her hair, didn’t shave her legs or clean her nails, slept in a car for a few nights, and “was so scruffy during filming that when bystanders came up to chat with the crew they totally ignored her.”). But Williams doesn’t let her makeup (or lack of same) do her work for her. She creates a real character that isn’t purely defined by her looks. (Think of her in My Week with Marilyn.) #148 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.