Certain Women

I've written this review about 87 different ways in my head already. This movie is the cinematic equivalent of when you played outside in the cold until your nose ran and you only came in because your mom had a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup ready. Or when you're driving silently through the night and the highway lights cast big swaths of amber on your face. I feel like there's probably a tendency to categorize Reichardt's movies as suffocatingly dour or unwilling to grant their characters any happiness. Instead, I see Reichardt as someone who answers "no, I'm a realist" when anybody accuses her of being a pessimist.

Unlike directors like Nolan, Villeneuve, etc., who use dread as a weapon and then jolt us with cathartic acts of violence, Reichardt is graceful with her tension. While those directors and many others are admittedly masterful at suspense, she sees a way out of her situations without resorting to ugliness. There are several shots here that are framed in such a way that, in most other films, would end in disaster. Like a man is isolated somewhat to the left and you just know the window is going to get shot out next to him. And it doesn't. This isn't unsatisfying, anticlimactic, or un-cinematic, it's just the way things are. If anything, Reichardt exhibits more humanity than most filmmakers on this planet.

I was struck by a moment late in Certain Women in which Jamie, a farm hand, stops to look at Beth, a recent law school graduate, one more time. Beth is behind the doors of the law office talking to a man and she never turns around to look at Jamie. In any other movie, you wouldn't consider the fact that Beth may have noticed Jamie lingering in her truck out of the corner of her eye. Here, though, it's easy to ponder the fact that Beth doesn't want to be burdened with the thought of Jamie and is content to move on. I think most audiences would be sympathetic to Jamie's plight but it's infinitely more devastating to see the viewpoint of both parties without being prodded. No one is malicious or pure in this.

On the way to my car, I saw a man walking a Corgi that looked like the one in the movie. I slowed my pace trying to get a few pets before I had to turn towards my car. But the man was only walking to the trash can and after he discarded his wrapper, he gently tugged the dog's leash and turned around. I didn't get to pet the dog.

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