Certain Women ★★★★

Kelly Reichardt presents a series of three intersecting stories of women in small town Montana with Certain Women. But while the stories have a remote level of intersection, they never truly interconnect. Reichardt never gives that feeling of interconnectedness where all the stories neatly come together to fit into one bigger portrait. Each one is instead it's own separate story despite a small fleeting story element which ties them together and the shared landscape of Montana which always lingers in the background. There is just enough there for you to crave that an interconnection is possible, but in reality it is always out of reach. And that is a brilliant stroke of storytelling by Reichardt because it makes you feel exactly what those characters are experiencing. Each one is lonely and isolated and longing in some form or way to make a connection, but it alludes them. The situation and mechanisms are there and make it seem possible, but even when they make the effort it never seems to come to be. It is never devastating or crushing that the interconnectedness never comes to pass. These characters will all move on and try again later. They will exist outside the purview of this film. But you can't help but feel sadness that these lonely people have not found the connection that they crave and will continue to plague them.

But the part that I always struggle with when there are these multiple stories like this is where there is always one that is stronger than the other. The one with Lily Gladstone and Kristen Stewart clearly stood out from the others to me. Frankly I wanted to see more and wondered why it wasn't it's own feature film. And the second one with Michelle Williams I found the story a little too elusive as opposed to the other two. But all three are overall quite good on their own and it is never quite as dire as having a weak link. And having three stories with such different and distinctive women in them was quite rewarding. They each have a wealth of different relationships that they are part of including family, clients, lovers and prospective lovers. In an industry where female roles tend to be rather cookie cutter it is refreshing to see different shades of women getting a chance to shine on screen. They are all fully three dimensional characters that have both positive and negative characteristics. But they all share the fact that they are strong and independent women that sometimes struggle with being heard and also with how in each story one of those characters each end up slighting someone else. It isn't outwardly malicious or purposeful. But in some way or form they end up doing wrong by someone else.

Certain Women continues my admiration to the aestitic of Reichardt. She is able to capture the minutia of the lives of normal everyday Americans and the moments of their lives. Things like working, driving, sitting around watching TV, dealing with everyday errands, eating and idle cit chat which make up the backbone of getting through the day. But she captures it in a way that doesn't quite glorify them, but doesn't make it seem mundane either. It is clear she puts a lot of thought into her compositions to give you something that resonates with the characters and themes of the story. But it is never showy or stylish and still maintains an everyday feel. It gives the feeling of being minimalist while still maintaining the thoughtfulness and cerebral nature of not. Things like her ability to do a long shot among the scenic Montana mountain landscape make the characters seem small within the larger world and capture the beauty that exists around them. But it feels so organic with how it comes about with a character opening a door, driving, walking or staring out or into the window into the shot and Reichardt delivers no flash in that scene before cutting away to make it feel a part of those characters everyday lives. She captures the hidden beauty that exists in the world that we are too busy living to properly identify. And that in itself provides a certain melancholy.

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