Kelly Reichardt is an indie darling director who has been a large blind spot in my personal film catalog. With this project, I was excited to finally have the excuse to dig into her work. Fandor has 3 of her films available for streaming, and I caught up on the first two of them this week.
Old Joy (2006, Keely Reichardt)
Old Joy is a very small simple film about a pair of old friends going on a camping trip and to a spring in the Oregon Cascades. The men while obviously once close are in very different places in their lives. Mark (Daniel London) is about to become a father while Kurt (Will Oldham) continues to live the hippie lifestyle it seems he once shared with Mark.
I loved Old Joy’s ability to avoid every trope that one would expect given this setup. It wasn’t a comedy where Kurt convinced Mark to relive his old life. It also wasn’t a moral tale telling Kurt to grow up. Instead we just watch these two men interact in the way we actually expect two men would. No revelations, just two days’ worth of conversations between two people who were once friends. The simplicity of everything is what made the film endearing. The raw truthful relationships were welcoming in a world of overwritten unbelievable screenplays.
Wendy and Lucy (2008, Keely Reichardt)
Wendy and Lucy is a moving story of a woman drifter named Wendy (Michelle Williams) and her dog Lucy. Wendy’s car breaks down in a small Oregon town on her way from Indiana to Alaska in search of work. Strapped for cash, she gets arrested for attempting to steal a can of dog food. She’s taken to the police station and processed. When she returns she finds that Lucy is nowhere to be found. Her bad luck continues when she learns her car is broken beyond repair and she’s stranded.
Reichardt follows Wendy as she eats through the last bit of her saved money in search of her companion. She puts her goals on hold and slowly descends into desperation. She relies on the kindness of one stranger, but is constantly betrayed by others. I was in tears by the end as Wendy came to accept her predicament.
I’m now completely in love with Kelly Reichardt. Both of these films shot into the top 10 of their respective years, and will end up in contention for the best of the first decade of the 2000s. Meek’s Cutoff and the lesser regarded Night Moves are both available on various streaming services, and while I’m trying to diversify my directors, anticipate those as next week’s entries.