Dog Days: Wendy and Lucy goes existential in Oregon | Film | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Coverage for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians.
100% Local. No Paywalls.

Every day, the Source publishes a mix of locally reported stories on our website, keeping you up to date on developments in news, food, music and the arts. We’re committed to covering this city where we live, this city that we love, and we hear regularly from readers who appreciate our ability to put breaking news in context.

The Source has been a free publication for its 22 years. It has been free as a print version and continued that way when we began to publish online, on social media and through our newsletters.

But, as most of our readers know, times are different for local journalism. Tech giants are hoovering up small businesses and small-business advertising—which has been the staple for locally owned media. Without these resources, journalism struggles to bring coverage of community news, arts and entertainment that social media cannot deliver.

Please consider becoming a supporter of locally owned journalism through our Source Insider program. Learn more about our program’s benefits by clicking through today.

Support Us Here

Screen » Film

Dog Days: Wendy and Lucy goes existential in Oregon


Auschwitz? No, just Oregon. At first glance Wendy and Lucy seems to revel in simplicity. Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a girl. Lucy is a dog. Together they seem inseparable. But what unfolds is an intimate look at a road-weary girl's predicament and her marooned isolation. Wendy and Lucy is a tale of things going wrong and the resulting whirlpool of consequences. Wendy is on her way to Alaska to work at a fish hatchery and en route gets stranded in Wilsonville, Oregon, losing her dog in the process. One bad thing leads to another. The irrepressible dent it leaves on Wendy is mesmerizing to witness.

This movie's realism is almost painful. Time seems to slow down. This is not nail biting stuff. It's more like watching laboratory animals squirm. In a weird voyeuristic effect, the audience is forced to root for her while fighting the urge to jump in and help. The surrounding characters do their best to steer Wendy in the right direction, but are too immersed in their own hard times to get involved. Watching Wendy's big dream getting smaller every second adds to the calamity. When Wendy's car breaks down it's truly the car hell we all can relate to.

There's an assembly line of cameos that keep the drama intact without grandstanding. Williams creates an intensely honest portrayal, tragically consumed by her dilemma. She projects an even keel belying the despair under the surface. Humming to herself while playing it cool, we know she's about to burst. Wally Dalton as a Walgreen's security guard shows a bleak kindness that is both strange and sincere. Will Patton (always guaranteed to bring a movie up a notch) nails his turn as a sleazy yet fair mechanic. Will Oldham takes a break from the Bonnie "Prince" Billy singing career to play Icky with a cursing monologue, riffing on dynamite and Alaskan fish hatcheries. John Robinson's (Elephant) smarminess as the do-gooder store clerk will make you want to slap him. And Larry Fessenden's crazed "man-in-the-park" brilliantly divulges a twisted anecdote relevant to everyone's' hard times.

Director Kelly Reichard (Old Joy) manages to keep us focused on every detailed scene and nuance. Every shot is exacting and every silence is filled with thought provoking stimulus. Even little touches like the panning of cages in the dog pound or the word "Goner" written on graffiti on a background wall tells a story. Telegraphing real time, no soundtrack music is used at all.

This is one downer of a movie, reminiscent of the saddest parts of Broken Flowers, The Good Girl, and The Straight Story. This flick would seriously kick major butt as a short. As a feature film it becomes so drawn out that you end up wanting Wendy to just get on with her pathetic little saga. The problem with real life pain and real time story telling is that, as compelling as it is, there is no real transformation. We're left with the idea that sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.

As marginalized as the characters are, the pain cuts deep. To Reichardt's credit, the depth is brought out by the actors' straightforward portrayals and the stripped down storytelling of this instantly engaging tale. W&L is about as real as it gets, with glimpses of hope only to be shattered. The haunting ending theme by Will Oldham puts the last existential nail in the coffin.

Wendy and Lucy ★★★✩✩
Starring: Michelle Williams, Larry Fessenden, Wally Dalton, John Robinson, Will Patton; Directed by: Kelly Reichardt; Rated R.

About The Author

Add a comment

More by Mike Bookey