I’ve been rewatching Reichart’s films and checking out the ones I missed (River of Grass and Night Moves) in prep for this – not only a new Reichardt film but an in-person visit and Q&A in little ol’ Lincoln. Katy liked Certain Women more than she expected to, and between the build-up, the Q&A and after-film discussions, I’ve put much offline energy into this movie, so will keep this post relatively short, leaning on quotes.
Three episodes, based on stories by Colin Meloy’s older sister. Laura Dern is a lawyer representing Jared Harris (I Shot Andy Warhol) who accepted a worker’s comp settlement and now won’t accept that he can’t sue. When he storms a city building and takes a hostage in order to review his file, Laura is sent in to talk him down. Next, Michelle Williams is trying to buy sandstone from elderly Rene Auberjonois (Deep Space Nine), but she and husband James Le Gros are having trouble forming a unified strategy. And third, lonesome rancher Lily Gladstone finds Kristen Stewart teaching night classes and starts attending in order to get closer to her.
Paula Bernstein: “Though the three segments of the film are only peripherally connected, they share the same pensive tone and convey a palpable sense of loneliness.” I thought they were just barely connected (Dern is glimpsed at the end of part three) until Katy pointed out that Dern is sleeping with Williams’s husband in the opening scene.
While a lone man can be a hero â€” readily and right from the start â€” a lone woman is cause for concern. Despite their painterly settings and near-silent soundscapes, Reichardtâ€™s films are animated by a sustained unease. The viewer anticipates a threat that could but never quite does progress to a state of emergency … Itâ€™s the low-grade but unrelenting sense of hazard that is a womanâ€™s experience of merely moving through the world, an anxiety so quiet and constant it can be confused for nothing more than atmosphere.
With the exception of Gladstoneâ€™s lone rancher, these certain women are actually doing much better in their lives than Reichardtâ€™s Oregonian outcasts she has so movingly introduced us to in the past, yet they each are united in a common feeling, emotional and existential, of just being on the outside, of being held on the cusp of what would make them happy and fulfilled.