Certain Women

Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Starring Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone, James Le Gros and Jared Harris
In UK Cinemas March 3rd, 2017

by Joanna Orland

Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist directorial style hasn’t noticeably evolved across such films including Wendy and Lucy and the less affective Night Moves (these being the only two other works of hers which I have seen). But what lifts Certain Women above her previous efforts is the underplayed and wholly relatable issues these women in the film face. An unassuming portrayal of such issues, Certain Women is a slow watch with subtle greatness. Its anti-dramatic naturalism will not appeal to many viewers, but for those with patience, the payoff is great.

The story, while tenuously linked, is in three separate parts. The first follows Laura (Laura Dern), a lawyer who strives to overcome casual sexism to help her client Fuller (Jared Harris) who is in emotional turmoil. Not taken seriously as a lawyer as Fuller refuses to believe her until she gets a male colleague to offer his opinion, Laura falls into a more nurturing style relationship with Fuller as he completely breaks down.

The second follows Gina (Michelle Williams), a wife and mother who perseveres to build her dream home, in charge of her own business and seemingly alienating the men in her life through nothing but her own ambition. While this story examines how being a determined and self-sufficient woman can threaten male masculinity, this thread of the film feels the weakest and least engaging.

The third and strongest of the stories follows a lonely rancher (Lily Gladstone) as she tries to make a connection to her newfound night school teacher (Kristen Stewart). The portrayal of loneliness and isolation is anguishing. Gladstone thrives in her performance, silent and stoic, facial expressions conveying the desperation and isolation her character feels. The subtleties in her actions combined with her final grand gesture, which she cannot verbally express, enhances the emotion of her storyline with such artful restraint- this segment alone makes this film a heartfelt pseudo-masterpiece.

With a strong start, weak middle, and glorious end, Certain Women captures what it is to be a woman in the American Northwest, striving to define oneself against societal conventions.


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