Certain Women Screen 93 of 38 reviews

Certain Women

2016

Certain Women Poster
  • If Reichardt has rightly been called a minimalist—Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu are also profound influences—she’s a maximalist of repressed passions. Certain Women (2016) is the director’s sixth feature, and in every one, she has required her actors—chosen, perhaps, for their soulful vibe and ability to emote from the inside out—to work really hard at not doing very much while implying they contain multitudes.

  • Having made a Western and an environmental thriller, Reichardt has come full circle to the heart-on-sleeve intimacies of her devastating Wendy and Lucy. And it’s the Rancher’s story, more populated by horses than by people, that will win your heart. In a closing coda that briefly revisits each story, finding Laura visiting Fuller in jail and Gina sneaking off from Ryan for a quick cigarette break, it’s the Rancher and her dog who own the final shot, and you’ll want to watch them forever.

  • What the triptych structure nicely amplifies are the women’s plights and their tiredness, as they struggle with debt or loneliness, unhappy marriage or male neediness. With minimalism as an organising principle, characterisation is pieced together from scant dialogue, worn-in clothes or fleeting expressions. Reichardt shoots her actresses’ faces with the same lingering attention that she gives to the landscape.

  • Lily Gladstone makes the most compelling case of all these emotional drifters not through resignation, but hope. The way her eyes glow with happiness, her jawline tightens ever so slightly with tense wonder and that nervousness, the embarrassment of possessing humanity that some of us can't hide.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Violet Lucca
    January 03, 2017 | January/February 2017 Issue (p. 47)

    The film never deigns to announce itself as momentous or important, but rather wraps you up in the fabric of everyday life and leaves you there to marvel at the wonder each of these women create.

  • Reichardt, who also edited the film, brings the textures and atmosphere of the contemporary American West—Montana, specifically—so close that you can practically smell it: the dampness underfoot, the chill in the air, the emotional anticipation of barely identified longings and thoughts just starting to form.

  • By the time I caught up with Kelly Reichardt‘s best film yet—and in my book, that’s saying something—I couldn’t help but watch it through the dark veil of this year’s election results... That aside—please!—no other film this year took me back to the States so completely. And with such quiet vigor, too. Also: Laura Dern.

  • Each of the three discrete vignettes in Kelly Reichardt's lucid page-to-screen transfer of a 2009 collection of short stories by Maile Meloy incisively probes loneliness — most movingly in the final chapter, between Kristen Stewart's adult-ed teacher and Lily Gladstone's crushed-out ranch hand.

  • It's a movie that speaks to rural America with more genuine empathy and curiosity than a thousand scolding op-eds. Would the legion of Trump voters recognize themselves in it? CERTAIN WOMEN, adapted by Reichardt from a trio of stories by Maile Meloy, is not simply a film randomly plopped down in Montana to score a tax rebate. Its whole rhythm and grammar arises organically from the setting and its pokier pace of life.

  • Everything in Certain Women is carefully constructed and potentially deadly, but Reichardt rejects the spectacle of violence associated with the American West, replacing it with silence and dark pity.

  • The film is thus a delicate rejoinder to the all-American bromide of self-sufficiency and will power as routes to fulfillment, the defining thematic constellation of the western in its classical form. That Reichardt emulates the genre's components just cannily enough (expansive landscape photography, a climactic horse ride) while also subtly defamiliarizing them (plentiful dead air, unnervingly detuned ambient sound) makes her persuasions—her certainty—that much more revelatory.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Durga Chew-Bose
    November 03, 2016 | November/December 2016 Issue (pp. 16-17)

    Kelly Reichardt's latest, her brilliant sixth feature, Certain Women adapts three stories from Maile Meloy's Montana-set collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. It is an example of just how apt the short story is for film adaptation. The moment I opened the book, Meloy's prose instantly reminded me of Reichardt's signature voice: her bare, albeit deliberate and patient approach to story and how women, in their way, naturally access their environment for strength and solitude.

  • The film makes it a point to look at the process of experience rather than achieving an end result. Compare and contrast how all three lead characters approach conversations about the future and you'll see a panorama of beautifully contradictory viewpoints formed by upbringing, temperament and ambition. Reichardt merges them into a modern rustic tableau, tender and honest in its depiction of flawed individuals trying to make rural life their own in the modern age.

  • It's arguably the most precise expression of Reichardt’s vision to date... Though each restrained vignette is connected by only a blink-and-you-miss-it narrative delicacy, an active loneliness unites the characters, whose inner desolation seems at least in part a reaction to the barren winter plains of southern Montana.

  • Reichardt’s cinema is not for every viewer, and her penchant for mapping the ordinary at its most melancholic will be anathema to moviegoers who prefer a gratifying, conclusive emotional payoff. Certain Women, despite giving each of its stories a brief encapsulating coda, isn’t merely open-ended—it seems to deny the very idea of narrative closure. Yet this is arguably Reichardt’s most emotionally rewarding film, not least because of the acuteness of the performances.

  • The film would seem to mark a step forward in scale and ambition. But if anything, the compressed, anecdotal narrative and the caliber of acting talent involved have merely reaffirmed the artisanal rigor and low-key assurance of Reichardt's chosen style. What she has wrought here is very much of a piece with her earlier work, and it’s eerily close to perfect.

  • What allows the film to avoid being just a simplistic reversal of misogynistic cliches is its uncompromising realism... It may not sound like anything exceptional on paper, but in the context of independent American cinema, seeing women onscreen—crucially played by mainstream Hollywood actresses—not having a mental breakdown or at least falling into a severe depression when their lives don’t pan out exactly as planned feels almost revolutionary.

  • The three sections of Kelly Reichardt’s new film are consistent in their restrained tone but divergent in their impact. The first two episodes offer little besides moderately engaging plots, but the third packs an overwhelming power of mood, observation, and longing... Here, Reichardt infuses slender details with breathtaking emotion. The fervent attention to light and movement—as in a scene of a quietly frenzied nocturnal pursuit—seems to expand cinematic time and fill it with inner life.

  • Reichardt maintains a great deal of restraint throughout her presentation of these deceptively simple stories. Dialogue is spare, and we are shifted from one character’s story into another’s with no real warning. The film is admirable in how it presents rural lives without any sort of condescension or melodrama. There’s a kind of Zen quality to the leisurely pace with which Reichardt lets her onscreen lives unfold.

  • If one measure of a great filmmaker is that you wouldn’t mistake a frame of her work for somebody else’s, Reichardt’s variations on long-standing American indie tropes qualifies her for consideration. If another is that they can keep surprising you despite that same familiarity, then Certain Women’s flashes of humor and optimism fit the bill. She’s going to keep forging ahead, but of all her movies so far, this may be the one that truly grows largest when viewed in the rear-view mirror.

  • The filmmaker does her own editing, softly abutting the gorgeous 16mm images shot by Christopher Blauvelt to help define these women and their places (or lack of) in a microcosm of the wider order — the opposite of the style of, say, Paul Haggis in Crash. Plot developments become part of a chain of democratic connections, rather than fresh events supplanting those that many wrongly consider exhausted.

  • The connections among these short stories — based on the work of author Maile Meloy — are subtle, and their emotional trajectories somewhat incomplete. But director Kelly Reichardt’s filmmaking and the performances captivate you, and the movie lingers in your mind long afterwards.

  • From the first shot of Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, a grainy Montana landscape grayed by winter, with hills so soft in they could be painted on, and a train arcing its way towards the camera, it is clear this film is special... You’d be hard-pressed to find a more quietly rich, or more obviously beautiful film this year.

  • Reichardt artfully merges her two obsessions, the mid-western American landscape (here, Livingston, Montana) and women’s psychology, by reworking and intertwining three short stories, with an uncanny gift for drawing forceful, yet intimate performances from actors (especially actresses).

  • An adaptation of three short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women is a quiet and profound film that chronicles the female experience as told in fragments. The film’s sprawling vignette-like structure follows women at subtly transformative periods in their life, allowing each member of an exceptional ensemble to shine.

  • This is where worlds and cinema open up, whether in a documentary about the first girl in Mongolia to hunt with a golden eagle (“The Eagle Huntress,” a bliss-out) or a movie that finds the American director Kelly Reichardt giving Kristen Stewart a role and a burger to sink into with “Certain Women,” whose western characters are as stubbornly self-determined as this undersung filmmaker.

  • Reichardt, the great writer-director responsible for some of the best American films of the last decade (Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) has made what may be her most beautiful work of art yet. Certain Women, adapted from three short stories by Montana author Maile Meloy, is a film so quiet and understated, that the emotional wallop it packs may seem unlikely at first glance.

  • Few contemporary filmmakers can do quite as much with quiet as Kelly Reichardt. Superficially empty soundscapes are layered so intricately with the rustle of nature, the brooding of weather and the breathing of preoccupied people that her films come to seem positively noisy to a sympathetic ear. So it is in the marvelous “Certain Women,” where the storytelling has a similarly latent impact.

  • During the second segment, I kept engaging in a weird mental game where I thought of Dern playing Williams' character, and vice versa--I suspect it might have felt more apposite. I wasn't grooving very deeply to be honest. But then the Gladstone/Stewart section emerges and it's Reichardt at the top of her game, simply a stone cold masterpiece stretch of filmmaking.

  • Reichardt’s ability to capture silences, spaces, and textures in a manner that’s as captivating as it is therapeutic is best on display in [the final] vignette, which devotes a great deal of time and attention to the stable work of Gladstone’s character. It’s a totally transcendent experience to just sit back and watch as barn doors slide open and close, horses graze in the open valley, while the melancholy of unrequited love hangs—almost visibly—in the crisp air.

  • Like the first story, this final chapter of Certain Women heads in unexpected directions, surprising stretches of human behavior. But they never once beggar belief. Reichardt and Gladstone create a character whose impulsive lurches toward connection are awkward but absolutely relatable... And, in the final scene, Gladstone's prolonged silence demonstrates what the rest of Certain Women forgets: language is often superfluous, and almost always inadequate to the task.

  • Three tales of women letting people down - albeit without meaning to, or at least without conscious malice. The third story is in a whole other realm, so much better than the first two it's almost embarrassing - the second one is a slog, presumably unless you're a native Montanan enraged by pretentious hipster newcomers trying to be "authentic" - though the structure makes the coda more powerful, offering three (diminishing) degrees of forgiveness instead of one.

  • It was the best film I saw this year in Park City, and is sure to wind up on my shortlist of the year’s truly beautiful things... Reichardt's adaptation here of three short stories from Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It may be nothing more or less than an object of pure dignity, a film about the joys and virtues of being a woman and making films about the experience(s) of being a woman.

  • Certain Women will disappoint no Reichardt auteurist, but the trio of Midwestern tales, each pivoting on losses that can't be articulated or missed moments that can't be named, cast a spell not unlike a set of Raymond Carver tales that have been divested of strained significance. Few steps are planted falsely, while the film's enduring images consist of indestructible women pushed just to the near side of too far.

  • +

    Film Comment: Amy Taubin
    March 03, 2016 | Sundance | March/April 2016 Issue (p. 63)

    The film is both over-plotted and baggy until its transcendent third episode, which soars on the wild desire of a lonely ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) for a teacher (Kristen Stewart). Both actors are extraordinary, as is Reichardt's direction of them.

  • Reichardt’s films take place in an atmosphere of heightened quiet, and here she reaches a new level of concentration. Painterly shot compositions sometimes startle, as when Laura is introduced in bed with Ryan: as he gets ready to leave, he’s screen left, with Laura’s face reflected in a mirror on the right of a yellow wall. When he exits the frame, the composition becomes unbalanced, drawing attention to a literal framed portrait of loneliness.

  • Have now spent several days trying to perceive a coherent whole in these three barely-connected stories, and am still failing. The middle one in particular befuddles me—it felt bizarrely inconsequential while I was watching it... Airlift the final chapter out of Certain Women and make it a stand-alone short, however, and it would likely be my favorite film of the year.

  • There's an understatement to Kelly Reichardt's film that I've always struggled to believe. Certain Women is, like all of Reichardt's films, uniquely immersive; its narrative flows in elegant lockstep with the natural rhythms of its small-town locale. But it's also fastidiously written: Even the smallest glance must *mean* something.

More Links