Certain Women ★★★

There's an understatement to Kelly Reichardt's film that I've always struggled to believe. (It was Nathan Lee who once told me that if he was Wendy as she was being driven away from Lucy by police, he would have punched through the car window and screamed out for his pooch.) Certain Women is, like all of Reichardt's films, uniquely immersive; its narrative flows in elegant lockstep with the natural rhythms of its small-town locale. But it's also fastidiously written: Even the smallest glance must mean something. The first segment is my favorite for the subtlety with which Laura Dern's character diffuses a bad situation with a very gentle act of rebellion—upholding the law at the same time as she ensures the safety of the man who earlier slighted her because of her sex (a theme that's too-nakedly acknowledged by phone to a man that connects this segment to the second). The following segment is most notable for a striking Kiarostami-esque superimposition of landscape atop Michelle Williams's face as her character mulls an interaction with a cantankerous coot played by Rene Auberjonois; we're effectively put into the Williams character's uniquely Reichardt-esuqe harried-but-even-tempered headspace of trying to decode the coot's behavior. (Did he really refuse to wave at her in return when she stood outside his house, or did he not see her?) The third, a tale of unrequited love, feels the most satisfyingly "complete," even though the tics of Kristen Stewart's performance (you can set your clock to the rhythm with which, in a diner scene, she shifts from taking a bite, checking her phone, and wiping her mouth from multiple sides of a napkin still wrapped around a pair of silverware) reinforce the impression that the film is too mechanically engineered as a series of pregnant poses.

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