Certain Women ★★★★½

TIFF 16 4/10

There is always this burning desire to explain what makes a movie like this so great. That's why we're here, right? But I don't always know how. I don't exactly know here, but I'll go ahead and try to unravel it.

Three stories of three women loosely, if at all, connected in and around a rural town in Montana aren't in and of themselves anything astonishing, but in true Reichardt fashion the heart of the movie is in the quiet inbetween moments that linger between shots. Self-editing, Reichardt's cutting is measured and confident. I love this style. She lets shots keep rolling after the scene has concluded. There is a temptation to connect each story thematically, and there is enough there to suggest you can make a solid connection and yet each are just elusive enough to make a clear-cut statement difficult, if not impossible. Each woman interacts largely with one other figure and the dynamic of the conversations are largely one-sided with the other person simply not hearing what she is saying. Reichardt has touched on gender issues subtly before, especially in MEEK'S CUTOFF, but here she is more direct. Two of the stories concern a man who just won't hear her, if the third followed suit the movie would be neat and tidy, but it doesn't, instead it's about a could-be love affair between two women. Reichardt uses just enough of these inconsistencies to make the stories separate and yet similar enough to encourage this type of investigating. Although, I never found her to be forcing the issue. Force isn't something that she introduces into her movies much at all, and here each story feels so incredibly natural that if you are just looking them head-on they'll seem so inconsequential it's nauseating, especially the second story. But the stories aren't about a lawsuit, or a pile of brick, or a teaching job -- they're about communicating, longings to be heard, maybe respected, and selfish intent or self-interest, although not necessarily in a negative way. The three women all feel rejection and all ultimately act in favour of themselves against what they surely know of the wishes or desires of the other person, but without cruelty or malice. Reichardt gives us plenty of time to look at the rolling hills and mountains to contemplate with the characters and its a really warm, pleasant feeling.

I also want to acknowledge how well her use of weather is, whether intentional or not. I love quiet films set in moody weather--not necessarily dramatic weather but grey overcast and light rain. It's like reading a book during a rain storm. Inside the theatre, it's a cozy place to watch from. Also, let's appreciate Laura Dern. She's amazing. Shot on film, feeling warm and fuzzy this often feels like a film out of time, it would feel right at home next to Reichardt's accomplished 1994 debut and the rest of the early 90s indie film movement. Feels like a lost classic.

Peter liked this review