In Kelly Reichardt’s CERTAIN WOMEN, the Lucy and Wendy director pulls from author Maile Meloy’s collection of short stories, “Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It,” to tell three intersecting tales of three women in Montana. Intimate and told with incredible grace, the film further proves Reichardt’s uniquely naturalistic filmmaking skills with four subdued, yet compelling performances from four astonishing actors.
Laura Dern stars as Laura, a lawyer who is juggling with office sexism and a needy relationship with a client (Jared Harris) who finds himself in a hostage situation. Michelle Williams plays Gina, an underappreciated mother that finds herself at odds with her typical teen daughter (in other words, ungrateful and bratty) while navigating her relationship with her husband as they build their dream home. Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone round out the cast with Stewart playing a young lawyer who befriends a lonely ranch hand (Gladstone) when she teaches a night class about school law. As the four stories unfold, Reichardt shares a collection of snapshots of small-town America that are immensely emotional.
Not much happens in Certain Women from an external stand point. The film is basically about four different women living their lives. It’s a little voyeuristic in nature, making it slow and steady — which might test your patience. But the real meat and potatoes of the movie is what is conveyed through the characters’ actions and the emotions projected from their eyes (there’s a lot of eye acting here). With a bare bones score and a washed out color palette, Certain Women allows the actors to act with a capital “A” without any fluff or frills. Dern is phenomenal while Williams (who is a frequent collaborator of Reichardt) gives a voice to mothers — who are the real heads of households. Finally stripped of the Twilight sheen, Stewart continues to impress with her acting skills, but it is the breakout Gladstone that serves as the beating heart of the movie, delivering a stirring performance as a woman in search of a companion.
Running time: 107 minutes
Certain Women isn’t an exceptional piece of cinema, rather a finely tuned collection of short stories told with care and an organic authenticity.
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer