American indie director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Night Moves) has built her career focusing on stories about women who live at the edge of a very ordinary America. She turns her quiet gaze on them in a way that is deceptively simple but always reveals depths that few other contemporary filmmakers come close to achieving.
Based on a collection of short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women focuses on three different professional women living in the Northwest state of Montana. In a landscape filled with open plains, ranches and mountains, these are just ordinary people trying to get by. In the first section, a successful lawyer (Laura Dern) finds herself drawn into the personal struggle of a client (Jared Harris) whose life has been destroyed by a workplace accident. In the second, a married couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) visit an elderly neighbour to try and convince him to part with sandstone on his property for a new house they plan to build. In the final section, a relationship blossoms between a trainee lawyer (Kristen Stewart) and a young ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) in an adult-education class.
There’s no overt connection between all three stories, no final pay off or grand reveal. Instead, Certain Women observes the relationships between these women and their environment, the local people they encounter and their actions. Despite the stellar cast, there is an authenticity to Reichardt’s work which makes it feel utterly real: a true slice of real-life Americana.