Certain Women ★★★★

83/100

A relentlessly bleak but oddly calming triptych of stories buttressed by some of the most assured filmmaking that will come out of American cinema this year. The lead characters don't have much to do by design, which could have felt like a missed opportunity but instead feels like a calculated testament to their collective ability to express a mountain of emotion with a molehill's glance.

Reichardt's newest film, the first I've seen of her monumental talent, is bravely paced and structured, unafraid to be scoffed at as meandering or opaque. Indeed, such seemingly inevitable criticisms never come on account of its unblinking boldness. It's hypnotic, poetic storytelling at its very best. My only major gripe is that Michelle William's story is very thin in terms of impact and detail, which is saying a lot given how tragically slight and fleeting the entire film is built to feel.

Watching the movie, my mind went immediately to corners of world cinema rather than Reichardt's domestic contemporaries: the slow, fluid narrative and themes of complacency of Mauritania's Sissako, the proclivity towards meditative static shots that focus on movement within the frame of Thailand's Weerasethakul, or the crushingly raw performances the Belgian Dardenne brothers routinely achieve. It's a real treat to see such unflinching and artful techniques applied to rural America. I'm almost willing to say that even Jeff Nichols hasn't achieved such profound texture.