Writer and director Kelly Reichardt spins a subtle tale of three women whose lives narrowly cross paths in “Certain Women,” a drama based on short stories from Maile Meloy’s collection “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.”
In the first of three stories, we follow Laura impressively played by Laura Dern, an attorney who has been trying to help a fed-up employee win an injury case for months. She constantly tells him winning the case is near impossible based on the circumstance, but the client, named Fuller (Jared Harris), refuses to accept it until another legal expert tells him the same thing Laura did. While Fuller is in shambles hearing this news, Laura sits beside him, disgruntled at the fact Fuller needed to hear the news from a man in order to believe it. Laura’s professional relationship with Fuller is tested as he later seeks retribution for his unfair treatment.
The first panel of this triptych film shows that sexism is not always obviously displayed. In today’s society, comments about a woman’s appearance or capability can go unnoticed in everyday life but can add on to the viscous cycle of misogyny even successful women such as Laura can experience.
We are abruptly transitioned to the next story, which is the shortest of the three, about Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) and her husband Ryan (James Le Gros). Gina hopes to find fulfillment and acceptance from her family as they build a house from the ground up. It seems her fragile self esteem is set on buying sandstone slabs from an old rancher in order to complete the house of her dreams and perhaps better her unhappy marriage.
Another theme of subtlety in play here is showing familial tensions and how desperate Gina is to stay true to her family and true to her native land in building this new home.
We take another sharp shift into the third and final story of Jamie played by breakout star Lily Gladstone. Jamie is a lonely Native American ranch hand who seems to have no other social interaction in her life besides the horses she takes care of. This changes when she wanders into a night class taught by a introverted and mysterious law student named Beth (Kristen Stewart). The two develop a short and quiet bond. Jamie gradually becomes nervously smitten with Beth who seems apathetic at the gestures Jamie makes. This eventually becomes a downfall of their relationship.
Gladstone puts on such a convincing performance of innocent yearning, it’s almost devastating to watch. Gladstone is the underdog of this storyline as she quietly attempts to make a connection with another person who can’t even articulate her feelings.
Director Kelly Reichardt portrays three fine drawn stories of everyday struggles that women experience, misogyny, vulnerability and loneliness, even in quiet and rural settings. This film takes a raw look at the different backgrounds of people living in rural Montana and how normal lives have struggles, big or small.
Should you watch it?: Maybe
This slow-burning film almost seemed like too little for the average movie-goer who is spoiled by explosions or dissipation in every other scene, but is just right for those who want a change of pace and a dose of melancholic reality.