Wendy and Lucy

Rated 4.0

In director Kelly Reichardt’s recession-prescient third feature (adapted by her and Jon Raymond from his short story), Michelle Williams plays Wendy, a young drifter en route to Alaska, whose aging Honda craps out in suburban Oregon just as she runs out of food for Lucy, her dog. Then Wendy gets busted for shoplifting. Then Lucy goes missing; as if being stranded and destitute and pitied by an old rent-a-cop (Wally Dalton) and jerked around by the local mechanic (Will Patton) weren’t enough. This sort of austere, elliptical portrait of the downtrodden owes much to Italian neorealism; the gloomily fertile modern-day Pacific Northwest may seem far from postwar Europe, but some forms of malaise are universal and perpetual. With naturalism and stillness among her highest priorities, Reichardt subdues political blandishments. It’s difficult to tell how much of Wendy’s nouveau-hobo routine is only a pose, but the difficulty is the beauty of Williams’ performance, and of the film.