Words: Alicia McBride
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, Bill Pullman and Chris Owen
When I bring 'Dear Wendy' up in conversation I am usually greeted by a blank look. Nobody seems to have heard of it, which is a shame because many films have tried to tackle the issue of gun crime in America but none in such a unique way as 'Dear Wendy' - but then the screenplay was written by Lars Von Trier so chances are it was always going to be a little bit mental.
The film centres around a group of teenagers in a small, non-descript American town who, for various reasons, all feel bored, lonely or discontented until the founding of The Dandies. Dreamt up by their leader, Jamie Bell's Dick Dandelion, it is a club where everyone must own a gun. Evenings are spent memorising facts about firearms, studying gunshot wounds and practicing firing their weapons.
Yet Dick is a pacifist and knows that his obsession with his gun is antithetical to his beliefs, so the first rule of The Dandies is that the guns are never drawn. Instead, the club find a whole new way to talk about and refer to their "partners", fooling themselves as to the real purpose of the weapons and the possible consequences of carrying them. And you know that when someone replaces the word "killing" with "loving" it’s going to end badly.
As with all Von Trier ventures, the film isn’t necessarily for everyone. It came under criticism upon release for glorifying gun usage - the film reads like an ode to firearms and it is easy to be seduced into viewing the guns in the same way the characters do, although I’d hope that the end of the film would remind viewers that guns are deadly.
The film does have several great redeeming features, foremost of which is the soundtrack. It is comprised entirely of songs from the 1960s band The Zombies, who may well be about to enjoy a resurrection thanks to receiving the 'Glee' treatment in last Sunday’s Super Bowl spectacular episode. The songs are carefully integrated into the film’s entire ideology, with 'Time Of The Season' becoming a metaphor for killing.
The production and staging is also impeccable, shot almost exclusively on one street the sense of claustrophobia the characters suffer feels very real and allows for some creative aerial shots. And of course with Bell playing Dick Dandelion there’s an engaging performance at the heart of it all.
In fact, there are all round good performances from the entire cast, notably Alison Pill and Mark Webber who have gone on to find fame in last year’s 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World'. Basically, it’s well worth a watch.
Purchase 'Dear Wendy' on DVD for a mere £2.99 at Play.com..