Susan Granger’s review of “Certain Women” (IFC Films)
Kelly Reichardt is a feminist filmmaker, based in Portland, Oregon, known for her minimalism in “River of Grass,” “Old Joy,” “Meek’s Cutoff,” “Night Movies,” “Wendy and Lucy.”
Adapting short stories by Maile Meloy, she has created a cinematic portrait of several disparate women set in desolate Livingston, Montana.
Laura Wells (Laura Dern) is a lawyer whose angry construction worker client Fuller (Jared Harris) refuses to accept the fact that, since he has already accepted a settlement for a workplace injury, he cannot be further compensated. “If I were a man, I could explain the law and people would listen,” she complains.
Alienated Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) is a wife, mother and business owner who is trying to convince an elderly neighbor (Rene Auberjonois) to sell her some “authentic” local sandstone so that she can use the rocks for the home she’s building with her philandering husband Ryan (James LeGros) and their sullen teenage daughter, Guthrie (Sara Rodler).
Last – but certainly not least – Native American Jamie (Lily Gladstone) is a shy, lonely horse rancher who becomes infatuated with disillusioned Elizabeth Travis (Kristen Stewart), a recent law school graduate who commutes to teach a night class in educational law twice a week at a rural school, as Jamie looks forward to their chats at a nearby diner after class.
As writer/director, Ms. Reichardt is much less concerned with plot than the inner turmoil of her quietly suffering characters, working closely with cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, eliciting excellent performances from her ensemble. Unfortunately, however, the pacing of her mini-dramas is slow and uneven.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Certain Women” is a meditative, soulful 6, occasionally stunning in its bleak silence.