Certain Women ★★★★★

Certain Women is a perfect film. It has three low-key, quiet stories that pack an intense amount of emotional landscape into their triptych structure. They burble and cohere, without too many internal links, but with thematic amalgamation. They are essentially about three women, in three stories, who faces challenges in a single relationship, but rather than being about the relationship, they are delicately about a single woman.

The three-fold structure is expertly conceived and executed by Kelly Reichardt. Her ability to construct the narrative, around the crisis of femininity at the heart of the characters, is wondrous. She is such a natural filmmaker, her attention to detail is near unparalleled. The cigarette buried under the dirt; the burger cut in half; the Native American kid at the lunch counter. Certain Women is so finely detailed, it adds up to something greater.

Certain Women reminded me of Krzysztof Kieślowski, and in particular his Decalogue, or Three Colours trilogy, but it does as much in an economic 107 minutes. It has the slow, rhythms of real life, the quotidian pace, but always with a sense of drama hidden just below the surface. Kelly Reichardt is a magical filmmaker, who makes the mundane so enthralling. She has cut this film absolutely precisely and without a single incorrect beat.

The casting of Certain Women could not be better. Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Lily Gladstone are all exquisite in the film. All completely different. Dern is vaguely exasperated as her bandwith seems taken up by the affair she is having, but she always correct in her dealing with Jared Harris. Harris' emotional incontinence is a dramatic counterpoint to Dern (and all of the women in the film).

Michelle Williams feels quite separate from the other two stories, but I found it a counterbalance. Williams' smile, occasionally devious, occasionally honest, is employed to devastating effect. It is the most opaque story, most difficult, arguably the least likeable, but Williams is just incredible in the film. Her work with Reichardt is one of modern cinemas great pleasure. Long may it continue.

The final story, between Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart, seems to be the most celebrated of the anthology, and I cannot particularly disagree. It is certainly the most beautiful. Stewart and Gladstone are perfect in their roles, and you can absolutely see how the story unfolds. Gladstone's drive and risk-taking seems like the whole world by the end of near two hours. Taking the interior exterior, giving the audience a jolt. However, Reichardt never overplays it, never gives into audience wishes. Instead, she again focuses on the everyday life. The horses, the snow, the fences, the dishes, the diners.

Certain Women is an incredibly powerful, singular film. An expressive, but quiet masterpiece. A film of longing, and loneliness, and coming desperation, and economic hardship, but of honesty and occasional bursts of hope. Reichardt doesn't make bad films, but this is her best film. I cannot wait for her next film.

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