Certain Women – Film Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writers: Kelly Reichardt (screenplay), Maile Meloy (based on stories by)
Stars: Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern
As those familiar with her previous films (Meeks Cut Off, Wendy and Lucy) may imagine, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women is a study in quiet contemplation. In fact, it is the sort of deliberate poetic piece that would seem as much at home in an art gallery, as a cinema.
Based on three short stories by Maile Meloy, the film looks into the lives of apparently disparate Montana women; whose lives are fragilely linked by small town life. Lawyer Laura (Laura Dern) maintains composure as client Fuller (Jared Harris) fails to accept defeat; Gina (Michelle Williams) plans the perfect family home despite growing isolation from her husband (James LeGros) and daughter; and recent graduate Elizabeth finds herself travelling 4 hours to teach School Law, which draws the attention of lonely rancher Jamie (Lily Gladstone.)
Framed by a scape of natural sounds rather than a musical score, and pared back dialogue; there is little to distract from the bleak landscape, and carefully contained performances of the four lead actresses. Dern in particular is fascinating, perfectly underplaying the thinly veiled frustration of being used as counsellor and hostage negotiator with the client that won’t go away. Gladstone, meanwhile, is heartbreaking to watch; with the contrast between her sturdy confidence with the animals around the ranch, and quiet longing toward the teacher of a class that she only wandered into as she ‘saw people.’
As thought-provoking as it is slow moving; Certain Women is a film that one observes, rather than feeling directly involved in. With cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt (The Bling Ring, Indignation) and editing by Reichardt herself, each frame of the film seems considered and deliberate. It may be too quiet to appeal to the masses, but what Certain Women (and Reichardt as a director) does, is certainly done well.