In Kelly Reichardt’s 2008 drama Wendy and Lucy, Michelle Williams proves once again why she’s one of Hollywood’s most unpredictable and under appreciated actresses. Williams stars as Wendy, a young woman heading to Alaska for a job and a new start in life. Along with her, she has Lucy as loveable dog, that follows her without question. In a small town in Oregon, Wendy’s car breaks down in a first of many events that goes wrong for the young woman. Her car breaks down, leaving her without the cash to get to Alaska. Then when she realizes she’s out of dog food, she shoplifts a few cans, is caught and not only goes to jail but is forced to leave her dog tied up outside the supermarket. After returning from jail, Lucy’s gone. From here things get worse as the car is not worth the cost of fixing, the pound hasn’t seen the dog, and she’s approached by other homeless people during the night in the woods surrounding the city. Finally things look up for Wendy as Lucy is found, however she now has the choice of taking Lucy with her on the difficult road ahead or leaving her with the “foster parents” that took her from the supermarket.

Much like the previous film Old Joy by Kelly Reichardt, the story of Wendy and Lucy is not grand in scale and in fact only affects those few people seen on camera. Reichardt loves this idea of a homeless person trying to make the best of the situation put in front of them as Williams plays the homeless Wendy. Just like in Old Joy the idea of friendship is explored this time between this young woman and her dog. Whereas I found a lot of subtext in the Old Joy film because of the homosexuality that’s hinted at between the main characters, there isn’t that same subtext in this film. This film is a little more broad in that the subject matter is slightly more universal. There is also one big difference in the films, and that’s Michelle Williams. Williams is an actress so talented and what I mean by that is she becomes the character that she portrays. She’s an actress, and a movie star, although a bit more of an actress at this point. What I mean by this is when I see an actress of lesser talents such as Reese Witherspoon or Sandra Bullock, it’s Reese and Sandra playing a character or playing make believe, when Williams takes on a role, she becomes that person and immerses herself into the role. Those other two women are movie stars, not actresses. People go to the movies to see movies stars, and that’s fine, that’s just not what I get out of watching films. I would rather see that actor that can make me forget that I’m watching a film and invest my feelings towards the character on the screen as if it was a real person.