Release Date: Oct. 28, 2016
Running Time: 109 minutes
Writer/director Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women offers three loosely connected stories set in rural Montana that each start promisingly but quickly go nowhere fast. Laura Dern's attorney finds herself caught up in a hostage situation involving a client (Jared Harris). Michelle Williams' wife and mother tries to persuade an older man (René Auberjonois) to sell her a pile of sandstone for the house her husband (James Le Gros) is building them for weekend getaways. Lily Gladstone's horse ranch hand becomes infatuated with a lawyer (Kristin Stewart) who teaches an evening class in school law. Reichardt takes an observational approach to her wearisome adaptations of short stories by Maile Meloy. Unfortunately, these slice-of-life tales not only prove to be quite dull but they end without a hint of any payoff. These women emerge unchanged from the circumstances—however big or small—they find themselves in, which is especially frustrating in the case of Gladstone. Her fascination with Stewart remains unspoken. Does this lonely young woman believe she has found a kindred spirit in Stewart? Or is she attracted to Stewart? It's fine for Reichardt to leave us in the dark. But the action Gladstone takes upon receiving some bad news doesn't lead to anything other than a shrug of the shoulders. Which is a shame because Gladstone quietly wins us over with her unaffected manner. Dern also displays earned sympathy for her injured client, whose case has come to a dead end through his own actions. But Dern is very much a bystander in her own story. It's Harris who comes away changed by the situation he placed Dern in. Williams is saddled with the least compelling character, and she struggles to find a reason to make us care for a person who is solely defined by her current obsession. Reichardt more than hints that Williams is trapped in a troubled marriage to her husband, but Reichardt prefers to keep things bubbling under the surface rather than to address them directly. Perhaps the purpose of Certain Women is to shine a light on the monotony of small-town life, that not even a hostage situation can stir residents from their sleepy existence. Or that certain people—women or men—are so stuck in their ways that they don’t allow themselves to change. Unfortunately, with Certain Women, the tedium is contagious.
Aired: Oct. 27, 2016
Web site: http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/certain-women