The challenge with this sort of film is to not lapse into maudlin sentimentality, but Reichardt never does.  Much of this is due to her narrative which has been pared down to the bone.  We don’t know anything about Wendy’s past—except that she has a sister who can’t even be bothered to talk with her.  We don’t know why she’s going to Alaska, and we don’t know what has made her so stoic.  Fortunately, however, it doesn’t really matter.  We can still appreciate the story, however minimal it may be.  In some ways, it’s even more powerful for its simplicity.

Williams is outstanding in her role.  She gives us a Wendy who, though perhaps less industrious than many, just takes her blows and keeps on standing.  Incredibly, she also manages to avoid melodrama while still showing us a variety of emotions.  It’s her subtle expressions, along with a hint of emotion in her voice, that are so devastating.

This is no Marley & Me.  It’s a thoughtful film that, as early as last summer, would have been dismissed as “artsy.”  Now, with tent cities sprouting up around the country, many of which are housing twenty-somethings, it may be more relevant than ever.  

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Showcase of five short films by Director Kelly Reichardt’s colleagues at Bard College

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Characters are seen smoking and drinking in a couple of scenes.  In one, a character prepares to roll a joint.
  • Language/Profanity:  A handful of profanities and/or obscenities, some strong.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Mild to none.  One vague, off-color reference.
  • Violence:  Mild to none. In one scene, a female character fears for her life while sleeping in the woods, after encountering a man; but the fear proves unfounded.