Sunday, November 6, 2016

[Review] Certain Women

Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and Lily Gladstone star in director Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women--a quiet portrait of loosely connected lives in rural America.

Well-shot with it's painterly frames of barren landscapes, this minimal film takes place in the small town of Livingston, Montana. Dern plays a lawyer tasked with being a mediator for her disgruntled client who winds up in a police standoff. Williams is a hopeful homebuilder looking to negotiate a deal to obtain a mound of sandstone. And Stewart is a teacher juggling day & night jobs and long drives. In the meantime, she befriends a timid rancher named Jamie (Lily Gladstone).

The ensemble piece functions as a set of the (mostly) separate chapters--all containing similar themes of simply (or not so simply) trying to make a living, the strains of overtime work and the loneliness that comes along with it, and the empathy that arises when dealing with struggling customers. The whole thing is very meditative, observational, and subtly devastating.

All the performances are really solid across the spread, but it's Kristen Stewart that truly stands out with her intensely nuanced realism and magnetic eyes, further proving that she's low-key one of the greatest actresses of this generation (don't let Twilight fool you). Not only does she embody the most interesting character here, but it also happens to be the most intriguing story out of the three. In fact, this final chapter is so deeply felt that you almost forget about the two that come before it.

This film won't please everyone, though. It moves at a tedious pace and lacks the dramatic punch and resolution that most audiences are used to. At times I even wished there were a little more happening. Because let's be honest--daily mundane tasks and prolonged silences aren't always the most compelling events to witness on the big screen. Still, there's a lot to admire about Certain Women.

( 7/10 )

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