Wendy and Lucy Kelly Reichardt

Wendy and Lucy Kelly Reichardt
Kelly Reichardt is one of the last American directors to be at all credible. While her more high-profile contemporaries are obsessed with overblown bombast and empty quirk, Reichardt quietly goes about her business of documenting people under the radar.

If this latest effort isn't quite the revelation that was small masterpiece Old Joy, it's still a refreshing change-up from the badass nature or cutesiness of most Amer-indie.

Michelle Williams stars as a young woman drifting into homelessness; she's Wendy and Lucy is the dog she keeps with her as a constant companion. When Wendy's car inconveniently breaks down, she winds up vulnerable, steals some food, is caught and becomes separated from her beloved Lucy. The ensuing financial and legal red tape conspires to keep them apart. Lucy becomes the film's structuring absence and a symbol of how the system of "responsible" law-and-order makes it harder for people trapped on the social margins.

The characters aren't quite as nuanced as they were in Old Joy, with one or two signpost figures that needed to be more fleshed out, but the good thing about this movie is that it takes things seriously without taking them strenuously. You never feel hectored by the politics, or bullied by the moralism, or attacked by the aesthetic means to an end; Reichardt quietly lets her river run as a you draw your own conclusions.

Williams is a revelation, as calm and articulate in her performance as the film is in its machinations, and as good a reason as any to see this movie. But there are plenty more reasons than that to spend your time with this way-better-than-average offering. (Mongrel Media)