Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves) directs Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone in this tripartite portrait of striving, independent women whose lives intersect in suggestive and powerful ways.
The latest film from Kelly Reichardt not only confirms the writer-director-editor as one of today's leading filmmakers, but an extraordinary director of actors. Based on short stories from Maile Meloy's collection Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Certain Women is a tripartite portrait of striving, independent women whose lives intersect in suggestive and powerful ways. Gutsily eschewing narrative closure, Reichardt connects her characters less through plot than through place and various illustrations of one of the film's main themes: deferred desire.
Shot against the stunning backdrop of Montana's mountains and pastoral, big-skied landscapes in ravishing 16mm, Reichardt's film adopts an episodic structure as it abruptly drops us into the lives of four strong women, who are all living intensely yet evince a certain loneliness and longing as they endeavour to understand and shape the world around them. Laura (Laura Dern) is an overworked, no-nonsense lawyer battling office sexism who is thrust into a hostage situation by a disgruntled client who feels unjustly served by his worker's compensation claim. Gina (Reichardt regular Michelle Williams) is an ambitious wife and mother building a new home with her husband, with whom tensions arise over their disparate approaches to the project. Newcomer Lily Gladstone is quietly wrenching as a small-town ranch hand who develops an endearing attachment to the harried lawyer (Kristen Stewart, fidgety and formidable) who teaches her biweekly adult education classes.
Supremely elegant and fiercely intelligent, the deceptively small-scale vignettes in Certain Women combine to create a canvas of vast terrain and small yet meaningful gestures, of quiet yearning and subtle catharsis. With the help of her magnificent cast, Reichardt has created a masterful, profoundly empathetic film about the everyday disappointments and minor victories that make up one's existence — a film that reveals these certain women as both painfully vulnerable and unfathomably resilient in the face of life's many uncertainties.