Orla Smith’s review published on Letterboxd:
I can't do it justice.
I could wait to write this. I could wait until tomorrow, or the next day - when my thoughts are more coherent.
I won't though, because right now there's a feeling spreading throughout my stomach and I don't want to waste it. It's a hazy mix of warmth, sadness and impossibility.
Kelly Reichardt's films are so completely unpretentious. Each moment is loaded with purpose and detail. Her lack of recognition sickens me. Rewatching Certain Women has made me retroactively like a film like mother! less. It suddenly makes so much sense why people were appalled by that film's lack of compassion. Why settle for that when there are films like Certain Women in the world? Films that are honest but hopeful. Films that make you feel seen. Films that make you feel cosy and warm, and allow you to feel alongside other people.
It's one of the best films ever made. I see that now. I disagree with those who value the third story over the previous two. I understand: while I believe they are all as good as each other, the third one - a love story - is bound to be everybody's subjective favourite by design. But the film exists to show the lives of many different types of women. The first two stories are just as perfectly executed as the third. They have just as much detail. Their loneliness is just as tangible.
The performances are universally unbelievable. I love how the costume design speaks so much to each character: Michelle Williams' tight-fitting, practical outfits. Laura Dern's sophisticated, formal but well worn clothes that she dons with weary ease. Kristen Stewart's jumpers that help her feel safe while experiencing anxiety - until in the final scene they are replaced with formal attire that she looks extremely uncomfortable in, as well as a skirt that forces her to present more feminine than she naturally would. Living in isolation, Lily Gladstone's rancher does not have the pressure to perform gender and thus is comfortable in her own skin - even if she's not happy in her life. She wears many layers of clothes that don't actively try to reveal her body. Instead, they are warm and practical.
To look away from Certain Women for even a second would be to miss something vital. There are details hidden everywhere. This time, I noticed how Lily Gladstone smiles at a picture of a dog that looks just like hers when she's walking the streets of Livingstone at night. It is darkly lit and not dwelled on at all. Any other director would've have gone in for a close up.
Simply by depicting life as it is for so many people, Certain Women says so much. These three lightly intersecting stories are contained within one film for a reason: they are all lonely people who are too trapped within their own interior lives to notice each other. What if these three women could talk to each other? Would they find commonality? Would that help them to open up? The answer is that they never would. The small town life depicted is one of micro-aggressions and miscommunication. Certain Women is about people who co-exist but don't inhabit each other's spaces. These certain women are islands unto themselves. And these are only certain women. There are so many more stories worth telling.