Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to Old Joy, like that film co-written with novelist Jonathan Raymond and based on a short story he penned called “Train Choir.” What’s this movie about?
How hard it is in America. Being adrift and alone. The fragility of our social safety net. I read in an interview its impetus came from Katrina, and both the bungled aftermath and the desperate poverty of those who were failed during that seven-day trial — those who when told to leave realized they had no place to go and no way to get there.
We don’t know why Wendy is heading to Ketchikan, AK — I mean we do, to work, and her Indiana license plates on her 1988 Honda Accord imply a story of the rust belt, maybe — Ketchikan, AK, remember was the terminus of the bridge to nowhere — and so in an American that’s rusting away, a single girl, feminity abandoned, perhaps artfully so to protect her from the predators of the road (one of whom we meet in a chilling scene that must happen more than we realize, every day, in the real world), sets out, her solace her dog.
It is a sketch. Artful. Graceful. Sad and lonely. People try, but who knows what they do all day long — and Wendys realizes that even a dog is too much responsibility —
We sit there with Wendy, as she sleeps in a car, washes up in a gas station bathroom, gets caught shoplifting and arrested, loses her dog. Life is hard, the movie says. We know this, but we don’t know this — and while we are far from Wendy, the differences between her life and ours are minimal — maybe especially for me — but for a lot of us — drifting — one check away —
Six dollars, maybe seven, trade hands at one point in the movie. It is a telling moment.
The crust-punk neohobos of the Rusty 21st Century (America’s Autumn, they will call it) gathered round the fire, doing drugs, semi-dangerous.
The security guard outside Walgreens. The kid who turns Wendy in, with a little crucifix around her neck. Freight trains rolling by. The mighty trees of the Pacific Northwest. The little houses. The small town bus. America.