Small film, big punch

The coming onslaught of year-end blockbusters makes it easy to overlook a small treasure like Wendy and Lucy (in theaters 12/10). But if the film’s intentions are more modest than, say, Australia’s, its heart is as big as the continent itself.

Directed by Kelly Reichardt, the film follows a young woman named Wendy (Michelle Williams) and her dog, Lucy, as they take a cross-country road trip to Alaska: Wendy hopes to find work at a fish cannery, but she gets stuck in Oregon instead. What follows is a snowballing of financial woes that threatens to derail the trip, split up animal and owner, and weaken Wendy’s calm, independent resolve. Reichardt’s direction is subtle and sure-footed, and Williams’s understated performance is surprisingly moving — it’s her best to date.

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Small film, big punch