Certain Women

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Writer-director Kelly Reichardt‘s Certain Women is slow-moving realistic anti-blockbuster, sometimes to the point of ruthlessness. For the patient viewer, however, adapting to its glacial pace makes for a provocative, reflective time at the movies.

From their earliest days as simple recordings of variety show acts, films were never meant to be any one thing. In the bustling, hectic society we’ve created for ourselves, many people prefer to see movies only for the sake of escaping the mundane world around them. Films that transport audiences to a different time, place, or way of being are unquestionably exciting, but there’s also something special to be felt in the stories that could take place on any given day.

It would unfair to describe Certain Women ‘s premise without a warning, it barely has one. It’s a loosely connected story about four women: a world-weary lawyer (Laura Dern) with a pesky client, a proactive woman (Michelle Williams) building a house with her unfaithful husband, and a lonely rancher (Lily Gladstone) who becomes emotionally attached to an out-of-towner lawyer (Kristen Stewart).

While the stories loosely overlap, each stand on their own in a true-to-life way.

The movie is seeped with realism. Dern and William’s story rely on the audience’s appreciation of a glance into a day in the life of regular people.

Gladstone and Stewart’s story, however, becomes a devastating meditation on ignored desires for human connection. Their story is elevated by empathetic performances from the actresses. Stewart, as a fragile lawyer, continues to shed her former Twilight-soaked reputation, and relative newcomer Gladstone shines as the true star among the ensemble, delivering the most emotionally effective work despite speaking far less than any other character.The entire film takes place in dreary, mid-winter Montana, an aesthetic that suits its tone perfectly. The movies minimalistic approach is beautiful with an almost complete lack of musical score and cinematography that remains simple, without slipping into mediocrity.

Reichardt decision to linger extra-long on things like cars driving or people walking away from conversations is interesting, though it resulted in palpable impatience in the theater. Certain Women won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes. It’s thoroughly an anti-blockbuster if there ever was one. For anyone who likes the idea of a movie being great without a traditionally gripping plot, it’s one of the most curious experiments you can see this year.