Certain Women

Directed by Kelly Reichardt.
With Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern.
US, 2016, DCP, color, 107 min.

Reichardt masterfully adapted a trio of stories by Montana writer Maile Meloy into a triptych portrait of three resolute but unfulfilled women living in the same remote small town and sharing the same quiet frustration. The film’s impressive intergenerational cast of venerated actresses features Laura Dern as a beleaguered lawyer, Michelle Williams as an alienated wife and mother, and Kristen Stewart as a harried paralegal stretched too thin by a teaching job she knows she should never have taken. Together with newcomer Lily Gladstone—in a soulful performance as a lonely ranch hand—the actresses fully realize the double meaning of the film’s title, capturing both the striking singularity of their characters and the strength of their unspoken conviction to forge a separate path for themselves. Reichardt’s most explicitly feminist film hones its minimal plot to highlight pointed slights and misunderstandings caused by obdurate, narrow-minded men, while also revealing the difficult freedom in solitude discovered by the women. The tender heart of the film, however, lies in the touching relationship that briefly flowers between Stewart’s overwhelmed teacher and Gladstone’s wide-eyed cowgirl, who wanders into Stewart’s class by accident, or perhaps destiny, only to find herself longing unexpectedly for a personal connection that she knows is out of reach.

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