- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009

Wendy (Director Kelly Reichardt spends the 75 minutes of “Wendy and Lucy” narrative weaving an intimate, narrowly focused story of unanchored life on the road and just how tenuous such an existence is.

Traveling the highways in a 1988 Accord one step from the scrap heap, Wendy isn’t on the run from the law or fleeing a secret past; she’s simply looking for work at a place that doesn’t require experience (or a home address) to get hired. Her only companion on this lonely journey is a friendly mutt by the name of Lucy, a dog that wants nothing more than an occasional stick to chase and a cheek to nuzzle.

When Walgreens parking lot, her troubles begin. After exhausting her and her dog’s food supply, she tries to pilfer some victuals from the local supermarket, only to get caught in the act. Sometime during the day she spends in a jail cell, her dog disappears, no longer tied up outside of the grocery store.

For the rest of the movie, Wendy tries to track down her lost pooch. But how can she? She’s on an extremely tight budget; she doesn’t have a phone or an address; she doesn’t even have a working automobile to make the trips back and forth to the pound.

Worse, her home also is gone - locked behind the gate of a garage. Wendy must find someplace to spend the night. Her harrowing evening in the woods should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who romanticizes living off the land and off the grid.

Miss Williams is simply stunning in her star turn; it’s a shame she wasn’t at least nominated for an Oscar. The melancholy she projects, the frustration she lives with as she runs through town trying to find her friend, and the tough choice she is forced to make as the movie draws to a close are entirely believable. Her plight is both moving and emotionally powerful.

Aiding Miss Williams on the acting side of things are Will Patton as the mechanic who delivers some bad news about the aging Accord. Mr. Dalton’s portrayal of a security guard who takes a shine to Wendy is particularly heart-rending; his grandfatherly care is a rare light of kindness in her world.

The scarcity of stylistic quirks helps “Wendy and Lucy” maintain the sense of realism Miss Williams brings to the screen. Miss Reichardt’s direction is sure-handed and free of tricks. She lets the story tell itself and, in so doing, makes it doubly powerful.

★★★

TITLE: “Wendy and Lucy”

RATING: R (for language)

CREDITS: Directed by Kelly Reichardt

RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes

WEB SITE: www.wendyandlucy.com/index.html

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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