BAILEY THE DOOMERTARIAN™ 💋’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ever wondered what a Todd Haynes film would look like if a lot of the characters seemed like frequent users of Craigslist's casual encounters page? Kelly Reichardt certainly has you covered, man.
"Certain Women" is a film of rural, lonely doom. Telling three separate, melancholic stories of American isolation. The forgotten children born in literal nowhere Montana amidst snow, oak, rocks and more snow. Rooted indefinitely to their lower middle-class existence. Taking each day as it comes, facing reality with a poker face concealing that discontent. Reichardt succeeds because, unlike her indie film counterparts who pretentiously want to “bring the audience into their character’s reality”, she's no bullshit artist. There's no motherly coddle to how her film looks since, just like Haynes’ film “Carol” and, in my opinion, every indie film with a charm of authenticity, she shot it on 16mm film. The images popping with the grain and grime of a vintage Playboy you take with you on camping trips. There's a bump to how her film moves. Her images demanding you lean forward, not sit back, appreciating the misfortunate bagginess of this world.
It's Reichardt will, her invisible restraint, that draws her audience into a calm, slow burn piece of awe. There's a rawness, an imperfection and damage to it all. A tame “fuck you” to the cinematic bow we wrap our films in, where new and guerilla indie filmmakers are expected to use digital, turning their images into flat oversaturated nonsense, and their characters too expected, using them as empty vessels to get from A to Z, not to be explored, implied or simply just be, and have anything to return to warrant our empathy. Reichardt doesn't play that. Reichardt has no cinematic criteria checklist, tweaking the film until it's a lipstick pig. The arcs are small and unending, the personalities show a discontent but have the social contract where we endure, embracing the pleasurable small details that fall into place by chance. Reichardt’s film simply makes something out of people with nothing, letting each drawn out, tonally nuanced moment speak for themselves. Michelle Williams’ polite, graceful exchange of what birds sing to each other. Kristen Stewart, black eye level tired from driving four hours to and from work, eating a grilled cheese sandwich with a lonely admirer of hers. Laura Dern in the most “Fargo” of the stories getting wrapped up in an awkward criminal situation because of one of her clients, and the situation ending just as tame and awkwardly as it needed to. Each intersecting in passing in a winking seven degrees of Kevin Bacon way if you're quick to spot them. Reinforcing how trapped Reichardt’s are. 2016 women in a land so 1996 they're just waiting for time to catch up and reap the rewards that surely aren't coming soon.
This is Reichardt’s emotional lightening in a bottle. Laying bare every despair and fatigue of middle America into her own cinematic oil painting. And we empathise accordingly.