Certain Women ★★★★

I've almost wholly managed to miss Kelly Reichardt's films over the years. There are many reasons for this - mainly, I'd hazard, structural reasons. Having seen her latest, Certain Women, I'd also say it is probably down to her films' unassuming style. 

Reichardt is patient. Patient enough to sit by while a multi-carriage freight train rolls passed her camera. She is unnervingly able to allow the world inside her frame to reveal itself, no matter how slowly that comes about.   In doing so, she gets a lot from very little. Her rural texture has layers that the eyes can sink through and eventually they completely envelop. 

This goes for her landscapes and her faces. She directs with acuity and the talent she works with here, Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and relative newcomer Lily Gladstone, are completely in tune with her. They are unafraid to confront the camera and allow the audience to unpack their characters in stillness. Each has the depth to allow this to be engrossing in itself but shouts go out to Gladstone who pulls of the film's defining shot with a performance so nuanced that it could be watched for days.

All this quiet interrogation is invited in the service of triptych of woman-centered portraits of life in Montana. It is difficult to say whether Certain Women's three narratives (Dern's hostage crisis, Williams' marital sacrifices and Gladstone's knight in shining anorak) deal intentionally with themes of paternalism and gender structures or if these themes are foregrounded due to Reichardt's exceptional talent for observation. The stories are only tenuously linked, at least narratively, which again pulls focus to the blanketing thematics. Whatever the intention, the results are compelling and rich with humour, sadness and isolation.

Filmmakers who eschew name-making stylistic bombast don't often garner the followings they deserve. At least not quickly. But I'm getting the impression that Reichardt doesn't do anything at speed. In any event, I'm glad to finally be a convert. I've got some catching up to do. 

I think I can take my time.