Film Review – Certain Women
Certain Women is a feature film from director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy) and her third collaboration with Michelle Williams. Based on short stories by Maile Meloy and a script by Reichardt, Certain Women follows three women, all living in Montana. Their lives intersect in a way, but they are either coincidental or unknown to the women.
Laura (Laura Dern) is a lawyer helping out an exasperating case of worker’s compensation for an injury on Fuller (Jared Harris). Gina (Michelle Williams) is plotting her dream home with her husband Ryan (James Le Gros) and daughter Guthrie (Sara Rodier). A point of contention is a neighbor who has some sandstone they would like to use on their house. The neighbor, Albert (Rene Auberjonois), seems to take more to the husband than Gina. Jamie (Lily Gladstone) is a ranch hand taking care of horses. She is bored one night and happens upon a night class taught by non-local Beth (Kristen Stewart). Jamie takes to Beth and takes advantage of her need for dinner after a long drive to talk to someone she likes.
This a basic, no-frills, character-driven story with not much else going on in the film. There is hardly any musical score to accompany the film. There are not many characters and the Montana winter certainly provides for some harsh conditions and moments of beauty. I have a feeling people will go see this film for the actors in it, and then come out mystified as to why they paid money for that. On the other hand, if you love independent film that is quiet and really focuses on the acting, then you may be pleased by Certain Women.
As a woman, I can’t say that it is not refreshing to see a film written and helmed by a woman and have all the main characters be women. In the United States, today, it is films like this that should be regarded as noteworthy and doing some good for women in the film industry. These female characters are all strong, yet they carry a weakness with them or struggle being a woman in a leadership position.
Jamie’s story arc was the most interesting for myself, and the only one that stirred up some emotion. While Kristen Stewart is a big actor, she plays second fiddle to Lily Gladstone’s quiet Jamie, much like Jared Harris does the same for Laura Dern. It is feeling of excitement in a routine world of taking care of horses that elicits some wonder and love in Jamie. I could not figure out why she does all the things she does, but it is hard to not have some empathy for Jamie as she takes a chance. I desperately wanted to fast forward through the ending of her story as I knew what was going to happen, but a hope that maybe I was wrong.
As an independent film, Certain Women has succeeded with its characters, its setting, and the emotions it deals with pertaining to women. It loses its audience a bit with its storylines, its lack of excitement and the need to tell others to see this film that comes out of an excitement for it. This film will find its audience and they will love the film. For myself, I just regarded it as a decent film. I can agree that Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women is another worthy notch on her filmography page and it will be regarded as a breakout for Lily Gladstone.