Wendy and Lucy, Dir. Kelly Reichardt, Oscilloscope Pictures (2008)

A Photo of Lucy who stands at the front of the shot panting, and her owner Wendy who stands behind her, separated by a chain-linked fence. (1)

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Whilst spending the majority of the film searching for her lost companion after getting arrested for stealing dog food she can’t afford from a supermarket, the story of ‘Wendy and Lucy’ (2008) is one of loyalty, friendship, and unconditional love between a young woman and her dog. Through an intimate exploration of modern-day poverty after Wendy loses her grip on the things she holds closest to her, the relationship between Wendy and her dog Lucy appears to be a consuming passion that gives Wendy a purpose despite the impossibility of homeless living in America, demarcating that pet-keeping can provide friendship that is free of judgment and shame. 

In this photo, Wendy is standing up and leaning on a fence, fussing Lucy.

In the closing scenes of the film, the pair are finally reunited as Wendy finds Lucy in the yard of her new foster home. Upon their reunion, Lucy jumps up to greet her owner with affection, yet the pair remain separated by a chain-linked fence. The mise-en-scene is important in reinforcing the distance between the two in this scene, as Lucy jumps up to greet Wendy but is ultimately still separated by what’s between them. Moreover, in the yard that she is enclosed in, Lucy has everything that Wendy couldn’t provide her; a safe place to sleep, a bowl full of food, and security. Regardless of this, she greets Wendy with the same trust and affection as before their separation as her tail wags whilst they hold their embrace, demonstrating the loyalty and affection between the two that is unchanged from the last time they met. This ultimately proves Wendy with a stark reminder that there are institutions in place to help rehome dogs from kennels, but limited resources to help humans who find themselves in similar positions and therefore demonstrating the impossibility of homeless living in America. 

The Poster photo for ‘Wendy and Lucy’ which pictures Lucy holding a stick in her mouth that Wendy holds in her hands. (2)

Despite the fact that she appears thrifty with her words in the rest of the film, with her struggling to engage in conversation with people who try to understand her situation, within their reunion Wendy appears to have reserved her conversation for Lucy. Wendy begins by apologising for their separation by muttering ‘C’mon Lu, don’t be mad’ and ‘I’ve missed you’ repeatedly whilst panting for breath and teary-eyed, as though she is overwhelmed by their reunion. In return, Lucy omits no judgment and remains loyal to Wendy by simply wagging her tail and listening to what her owner has to say. Although this scene delineates Wendy’s isolation due to the fact that Lucy appears to be her only safe companion within the film, it also demarcates the love between pet and owner due to the fact that in a world where she feels misunderstood by other people, Wendy finds comfort in Lucy’s companionship as she lends her ear to her owner’s struggles, and does not dismiss her experiences. 

During their short time together, Wendy tosses a stick for Lucy before lowering down to Lucy’s level. Despite Wendy having agency in their friendship, Lucy appears to reciprocate the affection by kissing her as she crouches down. The close proximity of the camera to the subjects in this shot allows the audience to share the intimate moment with the two before they go their separate ways; although Lucy cannot communicate verbally with her old owner, their friendship is evident through the pair’s body language, as they try to be as close as possible despite the restraints between them. In this instance, the framing of the pair is important as the chain-linked fence separates them still, reminding us that the pair cannot remain together as Wendy realises that someone else has provided Lucy with something she could not – a home. 

A Photo of Wendy and Lucy sharing a kiss through the chain-linked fence that still remains between them.

Regardless of the fact that Lucy remains off-camera for the majority of the film, her influence over Wendy’s actions are apparent as she promises that she will ‘make some money and come back’. Whilst Wendy decides to leave Lucy in her new foster home, her own future is uncertain as she walks off into the distance alone. As Lucy whines after her, the selflessness between pet and owner is evident in their friendship that transcends social boundaries and exists purely on respect and companionship. 

Wendy stares through the fence to say goodbye to Lucy
Lucy stares off into the distance as Wendy walks away.


Wendy and Lucy, 10/03/2013, FilmFour, 95 mins. https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ ondemand/index.php/prog/013D5B8B?bcast=94473684 (Accessed 15 Nov 2022)