Thursday, October 20, 2016

Certain Women (***)

Written for the Screen and Directed by Kelly Reichardt


I've worried that I don't possess the kind of patience a viewer may need to sit through a Kelly Reichardt film. It's not that her films are bad or even boring. They always contain a level of humanity uncommon in most films. She seems to really care about the people she creates. Take for instance the women of Certain Women, a film based on stories from the author Maile Meloy. Laura (Laura Dern) is a jaded lawyer with a very disgruntled client (Jared Harris). Gina (Michelle Williams) is a headstrong wife and mother, who's quest to build the perfect authentic home puts her at odds with her supportive husband (James Le Gros) and her angsty teenage daughter (Sara Rodier). Lastly, Jamie (Lily Gladstone) is an isolated ranch hand herding horses who finds some enchantment in her life when she meets a young law student (Kristen Stewart) who commutes weekly from out of town to teach middle aged teachers the legal dynamics of the classroom. These three women make up the definitive thirds of Reichardt's film, their stories all taking place around the barren, snowy towns and countries of Montana. Reichardt loves the kind of mood that comes with silence, and there are few places more silent than Montana. This is her third collaboration with Williams, and I think the best. Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff felt too much like an experiment, it was too dependent on the abstract. In a way, that's all there was. Certain Women takes more advantage of its cast, realizes the strength of building characters through performance. This is pretty easily my favorite of the Reichardt films I've seen (I'll admit that I actually fell asleep during Meek's Cutoff), and its collection of performances - specifically from its three leading actresses - are such a wondrous combination of beautiful, funny and heartbreaking. They're real portrayals of real women seeking virtue, validation and love.