Sunday, January 28, 2018
Based on the short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women is a collection of three different stories involving women dealing with trials and tribulations in their lives. Written for the screen, directed, and edited by Kelly Reichardt, the film follows the lives of different women set in Montana as they deal with their place in the world as well as what they want. Starring Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone, James LeGros, Jared Harris, John Getz, Sara Rodier, and Rene Auberjonois. Certain Women is an engrossing yet evocative film from Kelly Reichardt.
Set in small parts of Montana, the film follows the lives of women in three different stories where they deal with something out of ordinary in their day-to-day lives. It all play into this location that is quaint yet it also has something that does feel extraordinary where it revolves around the lives of these three women. Rather than employ a cross-cutting narrative that can be confusing, Kelly Reichardt chose to go for something that is straightforward though its main characters are connected in some way despite rarely interacting with one another. The first story involves a lawyer named Laura Wells (Laura Dern) who is dealing with a client who has become disabled due to what happened at work. It would lead to a moment where he would hold a security guard hostage forcing her to deal with the situation and help him find some justice.
The second story revolves around a couple who want to build their dream home as they’ve set up camp at the site of the house as they want to buy stones from an old man. Yet, Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) is also dealing with tension with her teenage daughter over the home she wants to build. The third story involves a lonely ranch hand named Jamie (Lily Gladstone) living outside of the small town where the characters live at as she unknowingly attends night school for a class on law where she falls for its young teacher in Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart). For Jamie, this sudden attraction has her wanting to break away from the monotonous life where she tries to find ways to woo Beth as they would go to a diner though Beth has to travel four hours from her town to go and teach in the smaller town and then drive four hours back. It all play into these events that the women had to endure as well as deal with something that can impact their lives.
Reichardt’s direction is actually very simple where doesn’t go into any kind of visual style nor does the film contain a lot of close-ups to emphasize more on the characters and their surroundings. Shot on location in the state of Montana with the town of Livingston being where much of the film is shot as well as other locations in the state. Reichardt would shoot the film during the winter period where it feels true for the location while she would use a lot of wide shots to play into this world that is sort of isolated from much of America in terms of its big cities and high-octane culture for something simpler. Reichardt’s approach to medium shots has more to do with the way characters interact with each other in situations or in how they deal with the typical aspects of their day-to-day life. Also serving as the film’s editor, Reichardt would emphasize a lot on long shots though knows when not to cut as she would infuse some jump-cuts for parts of the film as well as bits of suspense for the story involving Laura and her client. Reichardt would also maintain a sense of low-key melodrama for Gina’s story in her interaction with the old man while the story about Jamie and Beth is more light-hearted but also with a sense of restraint as the film would end with realistic conclusions for these characters who are all dealing with a sense of loneliness in their stark surrounding. Overall, Reichardt creates a riveting yet intoxicating about the extraordinary lives of women in Montana.
Cinematographer Christopher Blauvet does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely natural and low-key to play into the realistic yet gorgeous look of the daytime exteriors set in the winter to some low-key lighting for some of the scenes at night. Production designer Anthony Gasparro, with set decorator Pamela Day and art director Kat Ulmansiek, does fantastic work with the look of the tent Gina lives in as well as the classroom where Beth teaches. Costume designer April Napier does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual since it is set in the winter with its big coats, sweaters, and winter boots. Sound designer Kent Sparling does superb work with the sound as it is largely low-key to play into the locations that the characters are in as well as the scenes that play into the drama and suspense. The film’s music by Jeff Grace is wonderful as it’s largely low-key as it only appears sparingly in its mixture of folk and ambient music setting.
The casting by Mark Bennett and Gayle Keller is great as it feature some notable small roles from John Getz as the local sheriff in Livingston, Sara Rodier as Gina and Ryan’s teenage daughter Guthrie who doesn’t like her mother, James LeGros as Gina’s husband Ryan who is trying to keep the peace between mother and daughter, and Rene Auberjonois as the old man Albert whom Gina wants to buy some stones from in the hopes to build her dream house. Jared Harris is superb as Fuller as Laura’s client who is dealing with an injury that has kept him from working as he tries to get some money for the injury that happened to him where he becomes very desperate. Lily Gladstone is excellent as Jamie as a ranch hand who deals with her lonely and monotonous existence where she stumbles into a night school class where she befriends and falls for a lawyer teaching the class about the ideas of the law.
Kristen Stewart is fantastic as Beth as a lawyer who takes the teaching job four hours from where she lives as she copes with her own lonely existence and lack of stability where she finds a friend in Jamie whom she’s intrigued by. Michelle Williams is amazing as Gina as a woman that is eager to build her dream home as she also deals with the sense of disconnect with her daughter as well as some of the immorality she takes part in getting what she wants for her home unaware of Albert’s emotional attachment to the stones. Finally, there’s Laura Dern in a brilliant performance as Laura Wells as a lawyer who is trying to help her disabled client Fuller as well as deal with her own life that doesn’t have much excitement where a crisis would give her that bit of excitement.
Certain Women is a phenomenal film from Kelly Reichardt. Featuring a great cast, compelling stories on loneliness and the need to connect in a rural existence, gorgeous visuals, and a minimalist approach to its storytelling. It’s a film that explores a world that simple yet with characters that want more as they contend with their surroundings and need to either get out or make something of it. In the end, Certain Women is a sensational film from Kelly Reichardt.
Kelly Reichardt Films: River of Grass – Old Joy - Wendy and Lucy - Meek's Cutoff - Night Moves (2013 film) – First Cow - (The Auteurs #72: Kelly Reichardt)
© thevoid99 2018