Wendy and Lucy Review

The continued partnership of director Kelly Reichardt with writer Jon Raymond after their previous film Old Joy is proving to be a productive one. Adapted from another of the author’s short stories, Train Choir, Wendy and Lucy features another character looking to escape from the unnecessary complexities of modern life and recapture a truer sense of themselves, but inevitably finding that reality has a habit of getting in the way.

If anything, Reichardt’s latest film is even more pared back than Old Joy in its attempt to recapture that Hemingway-esque purity of man being at one with nature and themselves, but Wendy, travelling across the country alone with her dog Lucy on her journey to Alaska to earn some money, is no Nick Adams. She doesn’t feel any solidarity with the hobos hopping freight trains and drinking around campfires, she’s on her own journey for her own reasons and seems to want to have as little contact as possible with other people, particularly those in authority and part of the system she is trying to escape from. That’s easier said than done when money starts running low, when her car breaks down and when, in an attempt to “economise”, she is caught picking a few small items from a grocery store, is fined and, on her release, finds that her dog Lucy has disappeared.

Once again, Reichardt films with deceptive simplicity, and the classical nature of the subject is a thoroughly American one, one that in the time of a new Depression harks back to a classic era of filmmaking. How often do you see marginal characters like this in a modern American movie? And indeed, the impossibility of returning to time when there was an option of dropping out and finding a more honest way of living is what Wendy and Lucy is all about – when you didn’t need an address to get an address, an address to get a job, and a job to get a job, when you could make a real connection to people that wasn’t determined by roles and positions in society. Wendy and Lucy, like Old Joy before it, shows that humanity isn’t completely lost and that truth and love can still exist in a smaller way, but that they are values whose worth has diminished in our modern society, and you need to look harder to find them and cherish them before they disappear altogether.

The Disc: Wendy and Lucy also retains the whole look and feel of Old Joy in its Super 16 film stock. Grainy, soft and warmly saturated, the look of the film is captured perfectly on Soda’s DVD release. The transfer presented anamorphically at 1.78:1, shows excellent colour definition and detail, and flows smoothly and stably. The audio track is basic Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, but perfectly functional for the demands of the film. The film is in English, and there are no subtitle or hard-of-hearing options. Among the extra features, the most worthwhile inclusion is MS-Word documents of the two original short stories by Jon Raymond that inspired both Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy in the DVD-ROM section of the disc.

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