Certain Women

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Certain Women

If your heart thrills in anticipation of Jack Reacher, you’d do best to avoid Certain Women. If, on the other hand, you appreciate a piece of art that wraps you deeply in an uninvited, probably unwanted emotion, you may want to sink into this beautifully made movie. You decide.

Kelly Reichardt has no intention of creating a story on screen. She has created instead an emotion through her use of dialogue and landscape. Almost nothing happens on screen. It is the emptiness she creates that drops us with silent certainty into her intended emotion: loneliness.

She paints for us the silence of the vast landscape of southern Montana that can reduce its residents to the size of ants. So beautiful to tourists passing through, so empty sometimes to solitary residents.

We meet three of these. Laura (Laura Dern) is a small town lawyer trying to convince a client (Jared Harris) that he has no basis for a worker’s compensation claim.

Gina (Michelle Williams) and her insipid husband Ryan (James le Gros) visiting an old man with their offer to buy the pile of sandstone that has lain forever untouched in his driveway.

Beth (Kristen Stewart), newly licensed lawyer, must drive twice a week to a distant job four hours each way from her hometown to deliver a one hour lecture on school rules to a small group of adults. One in the class is Jamie (Lilly Gladstone), a worker on a ranch where there is no one in her life except the horses she cares for. She wants to know Beth better. There is no sense of communion, no emotional connection between any of these women and the men they know.

As Reichardt revisits each of these scenes, we learn that nothing has changed for the women, and we begin to understand that nothing will. That is what this corner of the American vastness is. Yes, there are ordinary lives out there somewhere but there are also people deeply alone. And no one paints aloneness in a vast landscape as beautifully as Kelly Reichardt. She has done it with silence, endless straight roads, land so flat we can see to the horizon and distant mountains. In that place, a life being lived is very small.

In a given theater, some walk out, some ask “what was that about?” Others are slow to leave, enveloped as they are in an emotion created by an extraordinary director. Those of us still there are wrapped in an abject sense of loneliness that may have no connection to our lives outside that theater.

The actors have caught Reichardt’s tone perfectly and each shows us her solitary core while cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt captures her strange and affecting vision. Anyone who watches this movie will feel the cold core of these women’s lives. That’s why we’re there. There is no next twist or next turn. When the lights go up, you’ll be feeling very much alone.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Certain Women
Word count : 497
Running time : 1:47
Rating : R
Date : 30 October 2016


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