Kelly Reichardt’s films all have the same tone and atmosphere, whether she’s exploring two men walking, talking, and camping (the wonderful and incisive Old Joy), a spiritually lost woman and her beloved dog in rainy Oregon (Wendy & Lucy, still my favorite films of hers), the dangerous and dusty open range (Meek’s Cutoff, brilliant), or rational thinking but irrationally behaving eco-terrorists (Night Moves, very stylish); I’ve still yet to see her 1994 debut, River of Grass. Her latest film, Certain Women, which was barely released in 2016, is a somber, meditative, and psychologically reflective tale of three different women living very interesting lives in Montana, all of whom are trying to find their ideal place in society, whether it be with their families, friends, lovers, or co-workers.
A trio of wonderful actresses (Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart) anchor the tri-fold narrative with subtle perfection, each one bringing their own sense of charm and mystery to their roles, with a mosaic quality taking over as the film becomes an interesting exploration of people, places, faces, and small moments. It’s a purposefully slow-moving film (Reichardt served as her own expert editor), with scenes that play out at a casual and languid pace, but which have the capacity to draw in the viewer on a more intimate level, especially if the audience is receptive to a film of this type.
Christopher Blauvelt’s silky and stationary cinematography is a study in precise framing but surprisingly never feels overly deliberate, while the contemplative musical score by Jeff Grace underscores the fragility of all of the characters. This is a true “indie” and will certainly appeal to people who like calm, quiet, methodically paced films that do nothing but explore multi-layered characters and their various personal issues. Available on Criterion Blu-ray, DVD, and via various streaming providers.
Review by Nick Clement