Sunday, June 15, 2014

Wendy and Lucy | The ALASKAthon

In the ideal case, an independent movie is more than just a movie produced by a small studio or on a small budget. It's a movie that aspires to walk off the beaten path, to swim away from the mainstream as we like to say. To achieve this, independent films can tell stories that big studios find too risqué to produce, explore themes that won't please a large percentage of the shrinking amount of moviegoers. Or it can use uncommon ways to bring its message across, play with the technical side of filmmaking or choose the long way instead of the easy one. 

In the last weeks, I have been lucky to experience many of the aforementioned techniques or paths an indie film can choose. I had the chance to see Linklater's brilliant interpretation of a coming of age film, Boyhood, to luxuriate in Ayoade's twisted stylistic rhythm in The Double and to experience the orgasmic fusion of low-budget South Korean filmmaking and Captain America gone dirty in Snowpiercer - among others. This week's film choice for the ALASKAthon is another indie movie that takes a different perspective on a certain story than a big studio would have abandoned - a very unusual perspective, indeed. 

Wendy and Lucy could have been a road movie, it looks like it and it sometimes feels like it. The title refers to Michelle William's stoic, quiet character of Wendy, and her loyal companion, the dog Lucy. Wendy has set out to start a new life in Alaska when life happens in the worst ways imaginable. First the car breaks down, then Wendy gets caught stealing dog food and finally, Lucy disappears. The movie centers on Wendy dealing with these problems in a desolate small town in Oregon, so nothing much actually happens after the quiet hurricane that is the first 20 minutes.

Call it the influence of mass media or mainstream or call it evolution: it's hard to like a story with unlikable characters. Surely, there are moments of pity connected with Wendy, and the film manages to keep her characters mysterious enough for the audience to keep wondering what her backstory is. But the coldness and awkwardness she displays are hard to feel sympathy for. Surely, something has happened to her and surely, there are places in this world that can make people react like she does. But for the main character in a story, even a story as short as this one, she does little to keep us invested. 

There are humorous scenes in Wendy and Lucy, but they are so few, I could count them on one hand. The parking lot guard and Lucy are the most lovable and fun characters in this story and they don't appear often enough to lift the movie out of its swamp of sadness. Everything appears evil and untröstlich?, despite the short glimpses of something beyond that facade - undoubtedly, what we see is what Wendy sees. And how she sees it. 

Wendy and Lucy is an interesting experiment in independent narration and execution of a simple story, but it never manages to touch the audience in a way that would make it care about the film. While it offers a curious idealisation of Alaska that seems to be common (think Into the Wild), it hovers on the stuck-in-between side of the journey too much to be pleasant or even challenging.


How capturing/ engaging/ interesting is the film? (out of 5 northern lights)

How gorgeous does the film - or the Alaska in it - look? (out of 5x Timothy Treadwell's hair)

How much does the film itself make you want to go to Alaska? (out of 5 sledges)

2008 • USA • English

director Kelly Reichardt
author Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt
Michelle Williams, Lucy, Walter Dalton


  1. I can see what you mean about that coldness in Wendy, in the opening scene she is distant and doesn't really listen to the story the guy tells. Perhaps this distance is normal, if she has been alone for a while, or a tragedy has occurred in her life. I think she is not a group person, and maybe finds it easier to show her warmth towards animals(Lucy). Hopefully you'll like the next films in the Alaskathon a bit more.Thanks for the link!

    1. I don't think it's unrealistic for her to be that cold and I did think about what had caused it. If she was just like that by nature or if something had happened. But other films sometimes make you relate to a cold person or even sympathize with her, which wasn't the case here.
      Thanks for participating!!

  2. haha loving the ratings Mette. Oh I was really hoping this one was good, I've always wanted to watch it!

    1. Really? I had never heard of it before. But researching I found out that it had got a lot of acclaim. Hum. Maybe you'll like it, who knows.

  3. I can't think of anyone who's willing to be kind to dogs, but I absolutely get your point -- I think I won't rush to see this because I would get tired of Wendy so quickly. Great review, and again, really digging your ratings!

    1. Don't rush, really don't, that's a good idea. When you think you're in the right mood, I think you could fairly enjoy this movie but it's not easy. And thx again!


Let the discussion begin!