Certain Women (2016)

Certain Women
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Kelly Reichardt
Based on: short stories by Maile Meloy
Cast: Laura DernMichelle WilliamsLily GladstoneKristen StewartJames Le GrosJared Harris
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2016

A small town in Montana. Here, Laura (Laura Dern) works as a lawyer, currently busy with her client Fuller (Jared Harris) who has trouble accepting an offer for worker’s compensation. Not far from Laura, Gina (Michelle Williams) and Ryan (James Le Gros) are working on their dream home. Gina has her heart set on some stones that go to waste in a neighbor’s garden, but they’ll have to convince the neighbor to part with them. Meanwhile, a young rancher (Lily Gladstone) who stumbles into night school classes out of curiosity finds herself in front of a new teacher, Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) and feels immediately drawn to her.

By now I’ve seen quite a few Reichardt movies, but Certain Women is the first one where I can say that I actually really liked it. Especially the last segment in this episodic film stole my heart.

[Slight Spoilers]

There are connections between the three segments in the film (each based on a different short story by Meloy), but they’re rather small and nothing much is made of them, so I’ll talk about each of the segments separately.

The first segment – with Laura the lawyer – managed to engage me, even though I wished it had focused more on Laura than on Fuller, whom I wished Laura had brushed off more. I just wanted to know more about Laura (and see more of Laura Dern), but I felt I learned more about Fuller. Still, I was interested throughout and Reichardt does manage to build some tension.

The second segment – with the housebuilding couple – was nice, but could have done with a bit more story. I did like how the family and their interaction and dynamic was protrayed. But due to a certain feeling of aimlessness, of never going anywhere, it was probably the weakest segment of the three.

The third segement – with the rancher and the teacher – was my absolute favorite. My love for it even made me love the segments that came before it more. It absolutely broke my heart. I wanted a happy ending so much (especially because queer love stories so rarely get happy endings, but with the wonderful setting and the even more wonderful characters I just couldn’t get enough of it anyway. I wish the entire film had been about them, starring the absolutely fantastic Lily Gladstone. Now that would be something. But at least we got this little bit.

Summarizing: Very much worth it.

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