Slow movies are a pinnacle of independent film-making. Movies with little dialogue, minimal exposition, and even fewer explosions populate “serious” film-making and appeal to art lovers in a brooding and quiet manner. Your enjoyment of these films is judged primarily on how sustainable your attention span is as well as the emotive resonance that collates within you. For example, a movie such as Moonlight is so expertly done that it didn’t need many words to encroach within your soul whereas Silence was a hard slog.
Director Kelly Reichardt has built a momentous career on populating our lives with unnerving, stirring, and silently moving films that strips back the grandeur to focus on the stories and characters. In movies such as Night Moves or Meek’s Cutoff, they establish Reichardt’s particular brand of quiet. In Certain Women, however, though beguiling at times, there is a lack of a pivotal drive that pushes the narrative out of its dull comfort zone.
Starring Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Lily Gladstone, Certain Women revolves around a small town in Montana and the intersecting lives of the women in the town of Montana. Laura is a lawyer tackling the sexism of her field whilst also battling an obsessive client, Gina is in a stale marriage whilst trying to rebuild her home from scratch, and a lonely rancher is amorous towards school-teacher Beth.
Based on a collection of stories by Malie Meloy, Certain Women is a palpable yet tranquil interweaving story that is an unravelling work. Centred on a collection of actresses who are stellar in all their counterparts – plus Jared Harris is fantastic in a supporting role – the performances here are of astute depth and rigorous exploration of their narratives. With such a defining cast, Certain Women explores obstacles that almost every women can relate too including dismissive male counterparts who would bypass expertise and opinions due to sexism. There’s also a larger scope of feelings including isolation and loneliness that is adeptly handled by the actresses. Certainly, the story of The Rancher and the school-teacher is exquisitely done.
The problem is that it wouldn’t translate well to all audiences and those who are, perhaps, not versed in Reichardt’s meditative exploration would find the whole film somewhat tedious. The film moves at a plodding pace. Audiences have to work for their exposition and what they will take away from it. With some stories, that works and creates a powerful film and for others, it’s a complete turn-off and really hard-work.
Though this is probably less a criticism of Reichardt’s work and more of the type of cinema-goer you are. On one hand, this is a terrific and moving artwork and the other hand, it’s absolute tedium. Perhaps the actual product is a happy medium of both and Certain Women has a place within the house of cinema.
At least, this certain reviewer thinks so.
Certain Women is out now