One thing is for certain. I’ll try to watch every film that Kelly Reichardt’s direct. In a time and age of an epidemy of movie superheroes (OK, some of them might not be that bad) and hipster movies as shallow as a perfume ad, she’s a real, refreshing, major hope. Subtle, heartfelt, not pleasing in a Hollywodesque (yeah, I mean simplistic) or Drivesque way (yeah, I mean fake, artificial), yet absorbing and, what’s even more important, enduring. ‘Certain Women’ is another example of Reichardt’s fascinating and commanding talents.
Based on Maile Meloy’s short stories collection ‘Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It‘ (which I hope it arrives to Spain, so intrigued), the film carries us to Southern Montana’s isolated prairie towns to meet four women and her lives in a triple, sequenced storytelling, where the links between them are extremely accidental (well, there’s no connection whatsoever between the second and third story, to begin with), yet the final codas of each story assemble some sort of unified conclusion… that every viewer would have to find & decide by himself/herself. Take your time, don’t rush. Allow yourself for a little more than 90 minutes without looking to your mobile phone. I know you can. The rewards are awaiting you.
The triptych of stories that ‘Certain Women’ is begins with Laura (played by Laura Dern), a provincial lawyer dealing (maybe I should say stuck) with what it seems an affaire going nowhere (he’s a married guy) plus a deeply troubled, close to craziness, client (a building-site carpenter) who is desperate for some sort of emotional support at the same time he seeks for professional advice… in a case he has zero chance of winning. We have a pretty surREAL action scene (don’t look for heroes, everyone one here is all flesh and bones, happily) before we shift to the second story, but despite being the more dynamic of the trio, imo is also the weakest, with some scenes that seem too awkward to relate (the car conversation, for example) with.
But things only get better from now on. The second story (the connection with the previous one is revealed early) is the confirmation Reichardt’s could be the perfect choice to translate all the great stories of Bobbie Ann Mason, Lorrie Moore, Jean Stafford or, sure, Raymond Carver, into arresting films. Lead by Gina (played by the always amazing Michelle Williams, a regular on Reichardt’s filmography), here’s a quiet but poignant and crystal-clear tale of marriage and motherhood (a pure millennial teenage daughter) struggles. One in which trying to convince an elderly and neighbour to give (or sell) them a pile of original indigenous sandstone he has unused in his yard and that she wants to use for their new house, becomes an obsession and a factor for realizing the disaffection, the rupture she feels regarding her family, her hopes. The inability to communicate, the muted depression, the disconnection… the discontent. Terrific.
And then comes the third piece, which is simply majestic, about the connection (and the lack of it) between two women: a timid, good-spirited and solitary rancher (didn’t know Lily Gladstone before, but what a presence in front of the camera, what an eloquence with just a look, what an actress we have found) and Elizabeth (flawless performance by Kristen Stewart), a young education law night school teacher that has to drive for four hours back and forth to reach the town and her home. It might be the oldest love story ever-told, where one part doesn’t correspond the other, but it’s very hard for me to remember many movies in recent times where I have been moved so much. The final car drive, the dreamlike rhythm and colours. The intimacy that doesn’t need words. The conclusion… Masterpiece.
I understand ‘Certain Women’ might not be suitable for everyone due to its pace (could it be trimmed down some minutes? Sure, as every movie, right?) and Reichardt’s conscious refusal to offer the viewer a catharsis or that fundamental, dramatic key scene where everything falls to pieces or gets together. But aside from the aforementioned first story where overall satisfaction can be discussed, I found the film a bold, touching and disarming statement, full of little triumphs encapsulated in a murmur, a cigarette smoked into the wilderness, a desperate look into the horizon or an unhurried horse ride. What a brave filmmaker is Kelly Reichardt.