“Certain Women” (2016)
When we first meet Laura (Laura Dern), she is lounging on a bed while her lover (James LeGros) is getting dressed. We will soon learn that her lover, Ryan, is a married man, and they are sleeping together during her lunch hour. It doesn’t seem to us that she is happy about returning to her job and tries to get Ryan to stay with her a little longer. She soon leaves her home and heads with her dog to her law office in a small town in Montana.
Waiting for her at her office, much to her abhorrence, is a client of hers, Fuller (Jared Harris). He is there to talk about his personal injury case. It is very evident that Fuller is not convinced that Laura is working her hardest for his case, and it also seems as if Fuller is more interested in spending time in the office with her than moving along his case. She finally shoos him away with a promise that they will meet with a lawyer who specializes in that type of case.
Later, Laura and Fuller are at another attorney’s office. He explains that since Fuller took payment from his company for the accident, he has no way to sue for more money. Fuller, much to the bewilderment of Laura, Fuller takes the news calmly and accepting. Fuller leaves and Laura comments to the other lawyer that she has been telling him just what she has been telling him for nine months. We cut to Laura in her car in a parking lot as she speaks in amazement with Ryan on how Fuller probably would have accepted her conclusions nine months ago if she was a man. Just then a car stops suddenly in front of her, and Fuller jumps out of the car yelling. The car speeds off, and Laura realizes she is going to have to give Fuller a ride back to their city. It’s a ride that Laura will soon regret as that ride will have lasting effects.
This is the start of writer/director Kelly Reichardt’s brilliant look into the lives of four very lonely women longing for something more. Laura Dern plays Laura, who is having trouble with a reckless and quick-to-anger client in Fuller, all the while not happy and very bored with her job and her personal life. Michelle Williams plays Gina, a mom that is married to an indifferent man, Ryan and has a daughter, Guthrie (Sara Rodier) who resents Gina’s attempts at parenting. Kristen Stewart plays Beth, a woman who recently became an attorney and begins teaching a night course on “school law” in a city four hours away. Lily Gladstone plays Jamie, a young woman working with horses on a ranch and becomes enamored with Kristen Stewart’s character.
Reichardt, who wrote the script based on the short stories of Maile Meloy, brings us a story that is low-key and often slow-moving, but that allows you to get under the skin of each character. What we see are slices of four lives. Those lives are real and powerful. The cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt is exquisite, full of dark colors contrasting with the light snow that seems to be continually falling. Reichardt uses these colors to make her characters seem even lonelier and isolated. These women, even Maggie, are almost always alone, whether it’s Gina lingering on a trail after a run or Jamie working on the ranch. Reichardt also uses long shots to show even Laura, in the midst of a small-town street, is isolated from the rest of the residents walking the streets.
This is a film that, while not a whole lot happens, it will linger with you for days because the performances of the four actresses are so powerful and real. I especially savored the performance of Lily Gladstone, who plays a soft-spoken woman who befriends the teacher, played by Stewart. She rarely speaks in the film but is so expressive in her features and body language. Her character is lonely, alone on a big ranch and is searching for someone to connect with, even if it means going to a class that she never intended to attend. Her performance is heartbreaking, especially the shots of her standing in the parking lot, watching Beth seemingly forever driving off.
“Certain Women” is a superb film full of small moments, most of which are poignant and distressing. It’s a look into the lives of four very lonely women hoping that they will eventually find happiness, even if it is short-lived. My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively at Regal Tara Cinemas 4
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