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Review: 'Wendy and Lucy'

Almost documentarylike, film superbly captures the low-key despair of the vagrant's life in these hard-pressed times.

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Wendy Carroll (Michelle Williams) is driving to Ketchikan, Alaska, in hopes of a summer of lucrative work at the Northwestern Fish cannery, and the start of a new life with her dog, Lucy.

Courtesy of Oscilloscope Pictures

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To describe the plot of "Wendy and Lucy" is to invite guffaws. Simply put – and there's no other way to put it – the film is about Wendy (Michelle Williams), a young drifter from Indiana who sets out for Alaska with her dog Lucy, loses her en route in Oregon when her car breaks down, and spends the rest of her time trying to find her.

Improbably, it's one of the most affecting films of the year, which once again demonstrates that all you need to make a good movie is talent.

I was not expecting the movie to be this good, since director Kelly Reichardt's overpraised previous film, "Old Joy," was an anomic snooze. But "Wendy and Lucy" captures like no other film the low-key despair of the vagrant's life in these hard-pressed times. Williams gives a performance that is so shorn of mannerism and theatricality that the effect is almost documentarylike. But make no mistake, we are watching a performance. Williams fully inhabits Wendy's moodscape. She captures the sullen fragility of someone who distrusts other people and yet relies on them to survive. Wariness and openness are writ equally large on her face.

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