“I’m Just Passing Through” A Cinematic Gesture Wendy and Lucy and Neorealism, Resistance without Resolution

What characterizes gesture is that in it nothing is being produced or acted, but rather something is being endured and supported. The gesture, in other words, opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of that which is human. But in what way is an action endured and supported?

—Giorgio Agamben, “Notes on Gesture”

Wendy and Lucy (2008) is a film full of paradox and refusal. Director Kelly Reichardt engages and often refutes multiple categories, methodologies and narrative histories at once. This creative engagement is not performed simply for cinematic competition or shrewd formal complication. Instead Reichardt’s film delivers 80 stripped down minutes focused on process, revealing tender craftsmanship and disarming cinema. This film produces what Giorgio Agamben decribes as a gesture. Gesture is a suggestion toward a way of acting or being. A gesture points the way but does not provide a resolute definition. Though this film literally has production and acting, what is purported above cinematic product is an opening into human experience that is focused on process. Wendy and Lucy offers an example of a cinematic gesture away from resolution and back toward process and ambiguity. This gesture becomes evident in the neorealistic methodology of the filmmaking, the improvised and non-professional acting and irresolute narrative, and even the co-constituted, relationship between Wendy and Lucy.  This film challenges expectations of friendship and resolution, and in doing so produces ferocious liminality that cherishes relating over resolution and process over product.