Understated, Undeterred

Other filmmakers could learn a lot from Kelly Reichardt

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Certain Women
Opens July 21

Roxy Theatre
4 out of 5

Nobody makes movies like Kelly Reichardt. The filmmaker behind the stunning Wendy and Lucy and Night Moves depicts the smallest details of personal journeys with the craftmanship of a watchmaker. Using long-abandoned 16mm cameras, Reichardt makes even the smallest story feel epic and otherworldly.

Even though her movies rarely break even, Reichardt has no problem recruiting top talent. Certain Women is headlined by the much-in-demand Kristen Stewart along with Michelle Williams and Laura Dern. Each one is at the center of three (barely) connected stories.

Dern is Laura, a personal injury attorney dealing with a troublesome client (Jared Harris) who believes (accurately) that he’s been cheated out of a compensation settlement. The lawyer is having an affair with Ryan (James LeGros), whose type-A wife (Michelle Williams) has her eye on a lonely old man’s stockpile of sandstone and doesn’t want to pay for it.

In the same Montana community lives a forlorn ranch hand (a fantastic Lily Gladstone), who takes adult education courses just for the company. She becomes smitten with a junior lawyer (K-Stew) who couldn’t be unhappier teaching a class four hours from her home.

Think you know where any of these stories are going? Ha to your theories! None of them unfold as expected. Try to find surprises like that in one of your fancy “profitable” movies.

Anyway: each narrative is compelling, but the Kirsten Stewart-Lily Gladstone one stands out. Their investments in their casual friendship is lopsided, and all-too relatable because of it. The Laura Dern section has all the makings of a tragedy but unexpected absurdity provides a twist.

There are no villains in Kelly Reichardt movies — just people falling short of expectations. Every blue moon, however, a hero
rises to help get you through the day. Just like life! ❧