Certain Women

Released: 2016

Available On: DVD and Blu-ray

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Reviewer: Faye Carr-Wilson


Kelly Reichardt is one of the most important, and innovative independent American filmmakers working today. Arguably the last indie purist, her films can be a little inaccessible to the masses, and exciting will probably not be the first word that comes to your mind if you stumble upon one of her 6 slow burning features.
A fan of Reichardt, I went to my local indie cinema alone on a Friday, the small room only half full, and got absolutely sucked into the quiet, subtle and delicate triptych of women-hood.

These three stories are headlined by Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart and frequent Reichardt collaborator, Michelle Williams. Reichardt has described her films as ‘just glimpses of people passing through,’ and that’s something that can definitely be said for Certain Women, her most mature and realised film yet.

An overburdened lawyer, a disillusioned couple building their home from the ground up, and a lonely ranch hand.

My favourite of the three narratives comes in the final third, a third that’s bursting with quiet talent. Kristen Stewart plays a law student who out of financial desperation has turned to teaching, a job which requires her to drive four hours each way, two days a week. During her short stays in the small town she enters an ambiguous and uncertain relationship with a female rancher. This story is anchored by Lily Gladstone, who turns out one of the best performances of the year. Which is quite a feat considering her only scene partner is one of the best actresses working today who is only getting better.
When Reichardt’s lens was focused on these characters I was the most immersed. Her observant and attentive gaze manages to never feel invasive, a continuous and impressive directorial trait that is mastered here. The two characters interacting with each other in the familiar and everyday is absolute magic and the conclusion to their story, being less than heartwarming only pulls us closer to these solitary character.

Its fitting that the final scene of this work, is that of Gladstone’s character back in the mundane. Carrying out the repeated tasks we have patiently watched her do throughout the film. Over the radio chatter in the background we hear, ‘I should have known, I should have stayed home’. Painfully fitting to the character’s journey throughout the film, this quiet line, if caught, gives us time to reflect on that journey – as I’m sure the character is doing in that moment.
It is a moment of brilliance and in that moment I came to the realisation that the one character who’s name we never learn is the most important of the film, and I have realised since, is the character I find myself thinking about most often.

The others in the audience however grumbled at this final scene. One woman even whispered to her partner, ‘Is that it?’

And that’s the nature of Kelly Reichardt and most independent cinema. You either connect with it or you don’t, but when you do it’s beautiful.



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