While Kelly Reichardt’s (Meek’s Cutoff, Night Moves) new movie probably won’t do much to dissuade those unmoved by her singular, formal filmmaking style, it’s also difficult to argue with the impressive quartet of female performances at the forefront of her profoundly feminist drama.
Certain Women follows the stories of four women living in the small, sleepy town of Livingstone, Montana; Laura (Laura Dern), a lawyer providing counsel to an irascible client (Jared Harris); Gina (Michelle Williams), a family woman attempting to build the perfect home and life in spite of inconvenience; and Jamie (Lily Gladstone), a lonely ranch-hand who attends night school and finds herself falling in love with the teacher, Beth (Kristen Stewart).
The ensemble format actually suits Reichardt’s directorial style like a glove, because it ensures that ennui is unable to set in by way of overlong sustained takes or laboured plot elements; each portion of the story is roughly 20-25 minutes in length, in turn reigning in the director’s sometimes challenging sense of pace.
The stories are largely slice-of-life fare and in many ways unremarkable outside of the performance quality, though Reichardt absolutely strikes gold with the concluding segment, largely thanks to newcomer Gladstone, whose quietly sad performance conveys an absolutely brutal amount of longing. It really is quite something to see and something to maybe even take your breath away.
Reichardt’s other significant achievement here is in creating a movie that celebrates womanhood in all of its beauty, wonder and strife, while employing no agenda to attack men or make the few males who figure here into man-child buffoons. Sure, the film isn’t really about men at all and they typically cling around the periphery, but that only makes the writer-director’s focus that much more clear.
Girded by three solid performances and one unequivocal knockout, Certain Women represents more of the spare, slow-burn cinema fans of Reichardt know and love. To others, though, results are likely to vary.
Certain Women is in US cinemas October 14th