I was drawn to this movie because of the dog. Is Wendy and Lucy a touching, thought-provoking movie about a struggling woman and her faithful dog? I guess so. But in many ways, I also felt that Wendy and Lucy let me down.

Wendy and Lucy (2008) is a slow-paced road movie, directed by Kelly Reichardt, out on DVD. Critically acclaimed, nominated for several awards, it also won an award for Best Actress. The movie stars Michelle Williams (Shutter Island, Brokeback Mountain) as Wendy, and Lucy the dog as Lucy–a yellow Lab, Hound mix with the most amazing button ears (ears that stand up, but flop over at the top.)

Wendy is a young woman traveling in her run-down car, hoping for better job prospects in Alaska. Along the way the car breaks down and she doesn’t have enough money to repair it, or to stay in a hotel, or to feed her dog. When Lucy disappears, Wendy goes to great extremes to try to find her and I clearly feel the love of the woman for her dog. Without giving anything away, in the end, she has to make a painful decision involving the dog.

The problem with the movie for me, is that it never fully explained this woman’s need to go to Alaska. There are few clues to her background, education, job history and parental involvement. So strong was her desire to go to Alaska “for a job” that she naively set out on the long journey without the means to sufficiently take care of her needs, or those of her dog. Owning a dog comes with a responsibility, and it’s not enough to just provide love. That being said, I think love trumps most other situations, as long as needs such as food and shelter are also met.

While I don’t want to give away the ending, I felt that–instead of the noble decision I felt the movie wanted us to accept– the main character was making a selfish decision, one that could have been resolved by giving up her (unfleshed-out) dream to go to Alaska.

The movie is rated R, although I don’t know why. There was no sex, nudity, violence and only a little bad language. A note on the back of the DVD says “This rating seems to reflect, above all, an impulse to protect children from learning that people are lonely and that life can be hard.”

Life can be hard, and movies don’t have to have a pretty tied-with-a-bow ending in order to be good. But this one left me wondering WHY the main character was giving up so much in order to go to Alaska– a question that was never fully answered…and if she really did the right thing for her dog in the end.

Have you seen the movie? What do you think?