Staring Michelle Williams as a lonely drifter making her way across the expanses and slow burning small towns of the pacific northwest, Kelly Reichardts 2008 feature is one of the most understated, brilliant features of the previous decade and ode to the brilliant power of the solitude we can easy place ourselves in unable to escape.
Wendy and her canine companion Lucy, are wandering the back roads of the almost-north, following the Alaskan dream. Living in her Rickety old car out of parking lots, rest stop bathrooms and small quick stops at local grocery stores. Her car finally gives out in an insignificant small town secluded in the thick Washington wilderness, and she is forced to spend half of her remaining travel fund to get it repaired and to wait a few days for the work to be done.
Unable to purchase dog food, she results to sneaking a few cans into her purse and and leaving the store as quickly as possible, only to be confronted by a store employee who claims to have been watching her the whole time. The employee insists that the cops be called and Wendy spends the night in jail only to arrive the next morning to find Lucy gone
The rest of the film is Wendy and her search for her beloved canine companion that represents not only the family she presumably currently has but also her only connection to a life of somewhat normalcy. Sleeping in the woods, wandering around the town for a few days until her car is repaired she is completely oblivious to the inherent dangers of such a life style and Reichardts diamond cut directing gives you an uneasy feeling of dread around every corner that simply never arrives until one sleeping session and an unlucky encounter with a frightening drifter obviously high on methamphetamine and suffering from some form of social delusion.
The slow burn nature of the town and quiet poetry of the heavy pacific northwestern woods surrounds Wendy as she literally drifts aimlessly around this small community being offered help at every turn, from the friendly homeless men at the recycling center to the older parking security who actually becomes somewhat of a pseudo-friend, both of them bonding over the shared fear for the uncertainty of ones own future. The films low key attitude is no doubt proof of the brilliance of Reichardts ability to craft a compelling narrative out of bare essentials of terms of story telling but also for her ability to capture the spirit that is already present in so many of these decaying communities.
Any fan of Reichardts work, I strongly urge you to revisit this quick watch, and anyone who is a fan of films that represent the smallest pockets of american society, please watch this film. Watch it today. Films like that represent a uniquely north american optimism that no matter who you are, you have a place somewhere, and that somewhere might be everywhere..