Skip to main content
Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 6 years ago

Film review: 'Certain Women'

The power of the unspoken word permeates this cryptic trio of simply vignettes.

"Certain Women" is a cryptic trilogy about the power of the unspoken word. Three slices of life, involving four women, play out under the rural and regal Montana skies like a tick in time. 

The first vignette centers on a small-claims attorney (Laura Dern) who has been representing a stubborn client (Jared Harris) refusing to take her advice. After eight months of telling him he has no hopes of resolving his issue, she refers him to a male attorney. The new lawyer agrees with her assessment, and immediately her client agrees with his opinion. It's the first example of a man not paying attention to a woman.

The second segment stars Michelle Williams as the wife of a man (James LeGros) who's cheating on her. To assuage his guilt, he indulges her desire to build a country house made from historic materials. Conversations between the wife and husband are one-sided. Guess which side.

The third story centers on a horse rancher (Lily Gladstone) who becomes enamored with a stressed-out young lawyer (Kristen Stewart) teaching night classes. The two make a connection after class at the local diner, but it, too, is one-sided. 

The stories are based on a series by native Montanan Maile Meloy. And although they're not earth-shattering tales, they speak volumes in their simplicity. Director Kelly Reichardt ("Wendy and Lucy") patiently paints a picture about women trying to get by in their rustic surroundings. The subtle authenticity of the stories are visually enhanced by the exquisite cinematography, which is stark and sprawling. The notable lack of scoring also manages to emphasize the character's plights.

All four of the women cast in this pensive study on life are pitch-perfect in their roles — as are the men. Stewart particularly shines with a reigned-in performance that hits hard. Her acting just gets better as her choices mature.

"Certain Women" is about women who have very little certainty in their lives. They're women who are undervalued by certain individuals. But they're also certain about making a go of it no matter what. 

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.

Related Stories